Richardson: If health care stalls, ‘focus on the main issue facing the country’ — jobs

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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As President Obama tried Monday to salvage a health-care bill, one Democratic governor voiced obligatory support for the effort but indicated that state governments would prefer the White House pay more attention to job creation.

“Our message was ‘Mr. President, you’re doing great on health care. Let’s try to get something done. But if it doesn’t work lets move to jobs and the economy,’” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday after Obama met with governors at the White House.

Richardson, at the JW Marriot in Washington, D.C., for the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, called the economy “the main issue facing the country.”

“That’s what they want in my state, that’s what all the governors said to the president,” he said of focusing on job creation.

On Tuesday, Democratic Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is scheduled to lead a conference call to highlight the need for a jobs bill to help put people back to work in his state.

A scaled down jobs bill passed a preliminary vote Monday night in the Senate to begin debate on the measure.

The governors’ White House visit came the same day Obama unveiled his new health-care proposal that leaves the Senate-passed bill largely intact while removing some of the controversial provisions like the government run public option and the “Cornhusker kickback” for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson.

During open press remarks to the governors, neither Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden specifically spoke about the new proposal, but South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford told The Daily Caller that Obama “alluded” to it during the private meeting with governors.

Obama’s new bill includes giving every state full federal financing for Medicaid expansion from 2014 through 2017, and significant assistance beyond that, something Sanford said is “mathematically impossible.”

Sanford said “there are well intended efforts that the administration is doing” but they “keep running into the financial reality.”

“The idea of taking entitlement programs in Washington, which are underfunded from any actuarial standpoint and saying, ‘Tell you what, we’ll take care of them as you expand them or … you know, continue to grow them,’ is at odds with financial reality,” Sanford said.

Asked whether he thinks Obama will see a health-care bill passed, Sanford said, “Either there will be Pyrrhic victory or there will be something ‘done’ that doesn’t do much or it will be scrapped all together.”

Obama is set to host a bipartisan health-care summit on Thursday at the White House, but House minority leader John Boehner said in a statement Monday that Obama’s new proposal “jeopardizes” the event.