Obama ready to move forward on health-care reform

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Declaring that it is "time for us to act" on health-care reform, President Obama said Saturday that he is willing to compromise with Republicans to strike a deal -- but signaled again that he will support Democratic efforts to move forward on their own if necessary.

Obama, in his weekly address to the nation, said last Thursday's bipartisan health-care summit showcased areas of agreement between the two parties. But he acknowledged that "there were differences" and argued that no compromise would make all sides happy.

"Some of these disagreements we may be able to resolve. Some we may not. And no final bill will include everything that everyone wants. That's what compromise is," Obama said. "I said at the end of Thursday's summit that I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge."

Obama added: "It is time for us to come together. It is time for us to act. It is time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities to the American people and to future generations. So let's get this done."

Obama's remarks were the latest sign that Democrats are preparing to move forward on their own using a maneuver known as reconciliation to pass health-care reform along party lines. Although winning support from even enough Democrats will be a challenge, party leaders have concluded that components of their 10-year, $1 trillion bill can be effectively sold to the public in time for the midterm elections this fall.

White House aides said Obama will release a revised version of his health-care proposal this week, and that it will address some of the issues Republicans raised at the Blair House summit. But the prospects of winning Republican support appear grim. Republicans have repeatedly called for the White House to abandon the bill and start over, something Obama says he is unwilling to do.

In the weekly response, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a doctor, said the two sides "listened to one another" at the event but gave no sign that a compromise is on the horizon.

"I'm concerned that the majority in Congress is still not listening to the American people on the subject of health-care reform. By an overwhelming margin, the American people are telling us to scrap the current bills, which will lead to a government takeover of health care, and we should start over," Coburn said. "Unfortunately, even before the summit took place, the majority in Congress signaled its intent to reject our offers to work together. Instead, they want to use procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year."

Coburn accused Democrats of "rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected," a claim Democrats reject, arguing that health care has been a central subject of debate for most of the past year and has passed both houses of Congress.

After the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in January, which cost Senate Democrats their filibuster-proof supermajority, Republicans have expressed growing confidence heading into the mid-term elections, with health care as a potential campaign tool. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele took the argument a step further, saying after the Thursday summit that it had been "a death panel for Obama-care."

"If that wasn't enough, when you come out of this thing and you're looking at the reconciliation fight that may loom ahead of us, it certainly will have represented a death panel for the Democrats this fall," Steele said on CNN.

Death panels became part of the debate last summer, after prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, claimed the government would set them up to decide who could live or die.

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