With Democrats in Congress looking for a way out of the health care impasse, President Barack Obama offered them words of encouragement but little else – no concrete plan to jump-start progress on a bill, no timeline for getting it done and no guidance on what he wants to see in his one-time top legislative initiative.
After days of speculation, Obama used Wednesday’s State of the Union address to attempt a jumpstart of the foundering health care talks. He defended the legislation that has passed both the House and Senate, and called on lawmakers to reexamine the plan “as temperatures cool.”
He seemed to finally invite the Republicans into the room (“But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know”), but he left a great many observers, not to mention members of Congress, scratching their heads. It’s not an inconsequential thing for the president to declare “Do not walk away from reform.” There’s at least some expectation he’ll accomplish it.
But as with so much else in the Obama administration, there’s no game plan for getting from speech to legislation. It’s startling in some ways that, as the report noted, “he broke little new ground, defending the bill with many of the same lines he has used for months to boost support for the initiative.” Meanwhile, the House and Senate Democratic leaders are at each other’s throats, with no prospect of real progress anytime soon.
Obama has simply dumped the whole mess back in the lap of Congress. That’s a recipe for getting through a speech and deflecting responsibility, but not for governing. Well, that’s pretty much par for the course in the Obama presidency.