The First Draft: Power of persuasion?
President Barack Obama has targetted healthcare reform as his top legislative priority. Now he just has to convince Congress to make it work.
Over the past week, Obama has stepped up pressure on lawmakers, speaking out each day about the need for an overhaul of the unwieldy system. He also has invited key lawmakers to the White House for a little personal persuasion.
Four Republican senators made the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to see the president on Wednesday and today he’ll meet with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe and Democrat Ben Nelson. Yesterday Obama also took the opportunity of congratulating the newest congresswoman — Judy Chu of California — on her victory to make a special mention of healthcare and the need to reform the system and lower costs for Americans.
When they’re not being wooed by the president, lawmakers will stay busy talking about healthcare on Capitol Hill today. The thorny issue of taxes will take center stage in the congressional debate.
The House Ways and Means Committee begins debate, and may vote, on proposed taxes and fees in the House Democratic healthcare proposal. Those include a tax on richest Americans to help pay for the healthcare overhaul. Two other House committees — Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor — are working on their portions of the bill.
The Senate Finance Committee meets in closed session again for debates on how to pay for the overhaul. They are considering whether to tax any portion of employee healthcare benefits.
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor heads back to the hearing room to face senators in the Judiciary Committee for the fourth day in a row. Though Republican lawmakers have tried to paint her as a judicial activist who will stamp the court with Obama’s liberal agenda, Sotomayor has held steady and remained calm with measured assurances that she is not an activist.
After pressing the lawmakers on healthcare, Obama has a busy few hours in New York. He’ll speak at a fundraiser for Governor Jon Corzine, deliver remarks to the NAACP’s 100th anniversary conference then attend a Democratic National Committee fundraising dinner.
After that he flies back to Washington. Phew.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing (Obama at Rose Garden after speaking about healthcare reform)