Washington House liberals pleaded with President Barack Obama on Friday to push for creation of a government-run health care program as the Senate’s chief negotiator said he won’t wait much longer for Republicans to compromise amid dwindling chances for a bipartisan bill.
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., held a nearly two-hour teleconference with his small group of negotiators, who call themselves the “Bipartisan Six.” Afterward, Baucus was careful to leave the door open to a long-sought deal, but he clearly signaled the time has come for him to move ahead.
“I am committed to getting health care reform done — done soon and done right,” Baucus said in a statement. He is considering making a formal proposal to the group of negotiators.
Obama, meanwhile, tried to placate disgruntled House liberals who fear he is too eager to compromise with Republicans and conservative Democrats to get a bill. In a phone call from the Camp David, Md., presidential retreat, Obama spoke to leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and other liberal-leaning House groups.
Caucus leader Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., said the lawmakers expressed their commitment to creation of a government-run plan to compete with private health insurers. On Thursday, they sent Obama a letter saying they could not support a health bill that lacked such a public option.
Woolsey said Obama listened, asked questions and said the dialogue should continue. She said a follow-up meeting will occur next week at the White House. Another participant said the president was noncommittal about the government-run plan.
Senate Finance is the only one of five congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care that has yet to produce a bill. Baucus had held back from convening a bill-drafting session, hoping that his group of three Democrats and three Republicans would reach a compromise behind closed doors that could win broad support. But he faces a Sept. 15 deadline from the Democratic leadership — and the prospect of losing control of the legislation if he doesn’t act.