President Obama scored points in health care speech, Dems say, but didn't change mindsby Michael Mcauliff and Kenneth R. Bazinet
September 10, 2009
WASHINGTON - President Obama energized House liberals with talk of a public health care option, but fell short of capturing the hearts of Republicans with his sweeping reform pitch, lawmakers acknowledged Wednesday night.
"He made the strongest argument yet on the public plan," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens), who supports the "public option" and has been one of Obama's biggest critics in recent days.
"He didn't make a blood oath, but I'm convinced he gets it," Weiner added.
Many House Democrats echoed the New York City lawmaker's sentiments, appearing relieved to hear the President make his case for a comprehensive bill.
"The commander in chief tonight became salesman in chief for the most important domestic priority of his agenda," said Rep. Michael McMahon (D-S.I.). "He answered questions for Congress on how we can achieve universal coverage for all Americans."
But moderate senators, who will likely cast the make-or-break votes needed for final approval of a plan, took a more cautious wait-and-see approach.
At times last night, Republicans in the House chamber didn't try to hide their disdain for Obama's words. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) typed on his BlackBerry, while other Republicans waved copies of GOP health bills that have been ignored.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) suggested it was Obama who was picking the fight.
"Unfortunately, the President was vague and needlessly confrontational. Hopefully, after some more time goes by, he will be ready for honest negotiations, since he does seem to be backing away from his public option scheme," King said.
The White House was content and felt Obama scored his points.
"They should leave tonight's speech with a clear direction for where he wants to go," said a senior administration official. "He expects this to be the beginning of the final weeks of completing this process. ... The President has a plan and he expects the Congress will pass the plan."