Obama Outlines Healthcare Goals Before Congress

President says public plan won't be deal breaker

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, noted that while his job was made easier by Obama’s visit to the Capitol, he’d discovered at a Democratic caucus meeting that took place earlier in the day that many members returned from their recess feeling more positive about passing healthcare reform.

“A lot of people I thought would be a little shaky were not only firm but also speaking very strongly for a public option,” Clyburn said.

Many of Obama’s comments were aimed at the American public. Although most Americans are currently insured and frankly more comfortable with the current healthcare structure, he sought to convince them that the stakes are just as high for them as they are for the poor and uninsured, pointing out that all Americans will pay the price if the cost of healthcare is allowed to soar unchecked.

The president said that he’s heard good ideas from both Democrats and Republicans and that he wants to hear from everyone. But he also pointedly told Republican lawmakers that some of their recent tactics would no longer fly.

“If you misrepresent what’s in this plan, we will call you out,” Obama said.

“He put forth a plan that represents a diversity of perspectives, honoring his commitment to bipartisanship in this process. Now is the time to come to the table and offer your ideas or step aside so we can get to work to make quality affordable healthcare for everyone a reality in America,” said Clyburn, who planned to begin the next day whipping up votes.

But Tanner doubts there will be much exchange on this issue between the president and Republicans in the near future or that either party is actually interested in doing that.

And when the president said that the plan would not insure illegal immigrants, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson heckled him, shouting, “You lie!” Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, said his behavior brought into the Capitol the tenor of recent town hall meetings.

“The Republicans are in a very different direction. Who’s ideas are they going to negotiate? The myth of bipartisanship is that you can split the details on everything but that’s not always the way it works,” Tanner said.

The bargaining and compromise will be left to Democrats over the next several weeks, said Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, who believes that one of Obama’s primary goals was to get them to commit to a process that will produce a good result rather than an ideological notion or a philosophy that says if the legislation isn’t perfect lawmakers won’t do anything.

“The left and right of the two caucuses treat compromise as a bad thing or a dilution of principles,” said Davis. “But compromise is how the legislative process works.”

Further Reading: How Healthcare Reform Affects You

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