This week's political main event is taking place at Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings over on the Hill, but over at the White House, Pres. Obama is pressing on with his health care agenda by meeting with union leaders on the status of that legislation.
But while their leadership seeks ways to help move the president's agenda, union members are far from unanimous in their support for him and his health care reform efforts.
Union members give Obama wide berth on handling health care reform - they trust him over Republicans in Congress 63 percent versus 11 percent according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in late June - but there remains room for Republicans to gain among card-carrying union members. A sizable 17 percent said they trust neither to make the right decisions on health care and Obama's approval rating on the issue lags well behind his overall rating (54 percent compared with 67 percent).
The same poll found many union members wary that health care reform could bring unwelcome change. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said reform would require change even of those who don't want it. And majorities are deeply concerned that health care reform will reduce their coverage and sharply increase the federal deficit (59 percent), increase their health care costs (53 percent), increase government bureaucracy in the health care system (52 percent), reduce the quality of health care they receive and limit their choices of doctors or treatments (51 percent).
Some of the hesitancy among this normally Democratic bloc (Obama defeated his Republican opponent John McCain by 60 to 37 percent among union members according to network exit polls) may stem from broad satisfaction with the status quo. More than nine in 10 union members already have health coverage, and nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) are satisfied with their current coverage.
But ultimately, the union leadership headed to the White House today may find grounds for support among their followers: seven in 10 said health care reform is necessary to keep costs down (70 percent) and seven in 10 said they the quality of their health care would improve (20 percent) or remain the same (50 percent) should reform pass.