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Obama Heads to the Front to Do Battle on Health-Care Reform

Aides say the president will embark on
Aides say the president will embark on "an aggressive public and private schedule" to fight for health reform. (By Haraz N. Ghanbari -- Associated Press)
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The White House decided early in the year on a hands-off approach to health-care legislating.

"Had we put a plan out, the entire debate would have been changes to the plan," said Emanuel, a veteran of the failed Clinton health battle. "It would have been how the president is failing or succeeding."

But even as he shifts into a more active role, Obama must be mindful of his legislative allies. Rather than strong-arming these old bulls, the White House must tiptoe around them.

Baucus was a veteran lawmaker in 1994 when the Clinton plan ran aground. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) is a leading health-care expert. Senate health committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is battling brain cancer, voted to create Medicare in 1965.

For health-care reform to succeed, Obama will have to carefully navigate between paying the appropriate respect to those men while exerting the leadership that many are demanding.

"It's getting hotter, and there are bumps, but we are closer to health-care reform than ever before," Emanuel said.

Staff writer Alec MacGillis contributed to this report.

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