When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.
If you follow health care reform, you probably want to know if President Obama saved health care reform with his State of the Union address. The answer is no. But that's only because there's no way he could save it with just one speech. It's too big a job. All Obama could do Wednesday night was to send some messages, about his expectations and priorities. And there I think he did pretty much what he needed to do. Keep in mind that Obama was really addressing two separate audiences: The public and the Congress.
The potential loss of a 60th vote in the Senate for health care reform has many in Washington focusing on the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes in that chamber.
Activists on the left have long insisted that insurance companies aren’t to be trusted. But up until now, it's been hard to make the charge stick, since the insurance lobby--a.k.a., America's Health Insurance Plans--has been cooperating with the White House and its allies. AHIP's new paper, though, may have changed things.