Thursday, February 04, 2010

Obama's Engagement On Health Care Has 'Dried Up': Dem Senator

Obama's Engagement On Health Care Has 'Dried Up': Dem Senator; The Huffington Post

Despite urging Democratic senators on Wednesday to forge ahead on health care reform, President Obama and his aides have been largely hands-off in guiding the legislative process, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post. And on Thursday a leading Senate progressive called out the White House publicly for abandoning the leadership role that is needed to get legislation passed.

"The president was weighing in pretty heavily on the discussions between the House and Senate before the Massachusetts special [Senate] election," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Huffington Post. "It's dried up since."

"I think the president needs to work out with House Democrats and leaders in the Senate what we've got to do in reconciliation and what we can pass in reconciliation," Brown added. "And I think we can do a lot. I'm not a minimalist here, that we just do the minimum, do the little bit that's required. I think we can do some significant improvements on the Senate bill. We need to because House members are not exactly trusting of the Senate these days."

Brown's lament was echoed in conversations with several high-ranking Senate aides this past week, many of whom agreed that the administration's involvement in health care negotiations has declined since Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race. Part of the toned-down engagement seems tactical. The main hurdle to getting reform passed is an absence of conviction among House Democratic lawmakers that the Senate will amend their bill using reconciliation. And it's debatable how much the president can do to generate that trust.

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