Obama to announce health-care strategy next week as Democrats try to gather support

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama will make an announcement next week, likely on Wednesday, about which direction he intends to go on health-care reform, as the White House indicated Friday that they are trying to generate support in Congress to pass a bill.

“This is a fairly dynamic process that will happen over the next several days,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

As for whether the president supports the use of reconciliation to push health care through the Congress, Gibbs said, “those questions are better left for when we have an announcement from the president on the way forward.” He added that the procedure has “been used on a lot of occasions to pass health care legislation.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, told reporters that the president’s health-care summit with Republicans and Democrats Thursday “made a difference” in her attempt to gather support from her caucus.

“It moved us closer to passing a bill,” she said.

Several House Democrats who voted against health care in November, when the House passed the bill with two votes to spare, told The Daily Caller they are not ruling out a vote in favor of the bill.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah Democrat and one of the 39 Democrats who voted against the bill, said he is “undecided.”

“He is carefully studying the Senate bill as well as the president’s proposal. He remains hopeful that a bipartisan bill will emerge,” said spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend. “He has said he has concerns about the reconciliation option.”

Rep. John Boccieri, Ohio Democrat, another no vote in November, sounded open to voting for a bill.

“As I reviewed the president’s health-care proposal and watched his bipartisan health-care summit, I was encouraged the proposal contains important provisions to reduce fraud, waste and abuse and reduce the deficit,” Boccieri said.

“I am pleased the president brought together both Republicans and Democrats … I am hopeful that going forward from this week’s summit with bipartisan ideas, we can finally move toward providing affordable, quality coverage for everyone.”

But Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Republican, was one no vote who remains steadfastly opposed.

“Congressman Taylor does not support the President’s proposal,” said his legislative director, Ethan Rabin.

The Daily Caller on Friday polled all 39 House Democrats who voted against the bill, and has received responses so far from a few of them, most of them noncommittal, refusing to rule out a vote in favor but expressing no support either.

Besides House Democrats who voted no, the White House has work to do to regain the support of a number of pro-life Democrats.

At least a dozen House Democrats who voted for the bill in November are not satisfied with language in the Senate bill, passed in December, that they say does not do enough to forbid the use of federal funds for abortion.

Rep. Steve Driehaus, Ohio Democrat, “maintains his opposition to any legislation that would provide federal funding for abortions,” said spokesman Tim Mulvey.

“He doesn’t want to speculate about how he’ll vote based on the current proposal, and he’ll make up his mind once there’s a bill and he’s had an opportunity to review it,” Mulvey said.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, has said he thinks Democrats have only 203 or so votes, when they need 217 to pass a bill.

Republicans, who enjoyed generally favorable reviews of their performance at the day-long health-care meeting on Thursday, remained confident Friday that Democrats did not have the votes.

“The White House is flat-out desperate. They simply don’t understand that it’s not their message, it’s the policy. Americans don’t want their bill, and no amount of flailing rhetoric will change that,” said Kevin Smith, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican.

The White House, in the meantime, is trying to portray Republicans as on the side of insurance companies who are price-gouging regular Americans.

Gibbs, during the briefing, mentioned several times that one of the biggest philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans is over “the treatment of insurance companies and the regulation of insurance companies.”

Alex Pappas contributed to this story.