The First Draft: While Obama is away…

July 8, 2009

With President Barack Obama off in Italy during a weeklong diplomatic foray, Vice President Joseph Biden has the stage on Wednesday for an announcement of the administration’s agreement with the hospital industry for $155 billion in savings over a decade to help pay for a planned healthcare overhaul.

For Biden, it is a rare chance to gain the administration spotlight by design, rather than because of his famously loose lips and periodic departures from the Team Obama script.

He strayed again over the weekend when he told ABC News the administration misread the economy upon entering office. Obama, in a round of interviews with U.S. television networks on Tuesday, was forced to backtrack and explain those comments.

Biden’s expertise is in foreign policy, not domestic issues such as healthcare, and Obama has acknowledged as much by giving him the lead in dealing with Iraq and a prominent role on issues like Russian relations. Biden kicked off his role in Iraq with a surprise visit there over the July 4th holiday weekend.

The announcement on the hospital deal, which follows a deal with drug makers, comes as the administration hunts for ways to cover the cost of a healthcare overhaul with an expected price tage of at least $1 trillion.

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