White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stopped pulling punches when he was asked if health care reform legislation would pass the Congress and be signed by the president incoming days.
By next Sunday (March 21), Gibbs said on Fox News Sunday (March14), the new system outlined in the reform legislation "will be the law of the land."
There may be a measure of bravado in that declaration, but it confirms that the debate about health care reform is finally getting real.
President Obama, who rarely if ever allows anything to get in the way of his international sojourning, is delaying his trip to Guam.
At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is saying finally–and presumably definitionally–that there will be no public option in the legislative package that reshapes the American health-care system.
These are both pieces of the broader puzzle that gets to the passage of what will be declared "reform." They come as the folks at Organizing for America are busy highlighting scenes from around the country where supporters of reform are now rallying in bigger numbers than Tea Partisan foes. And my friends at Reason magazine, where sincere libertarian objections to the legislation have been raised, are already sending "alerts" that talk about what comes after passage of a bill.
The health-care debate that has for so long been so open-ended is coming finally to a conclusion.
How do we know?
Let’s go first to Obama’s decision, which effectively sets the timetable for the key votes.
Obama, whose travel plans for next week include not just the sojourn on Guam but a too-long delayed stop in Australia and a nostalgic visit to his childhood home of Indonesia, was to set off on March 18.
What’s the big deal about the 18th?
That’s the day when, despite deliberate vagueness on the part of many key players, seems to have been settled upon as the due date for a health-care reform bill. And, with the Senate parliamentarian saying that Obama must sign an initial bill before the complicated process of reconciliation (which is essential to getting the House and Senate on the same page) can move forward, the president’s presence becomes essential to getting the House and the Senate on the same page.
Here’s why: The old plan was for the House to pass the Senate health care reform bill at roughly the same moment that the Senate would pass companion legislation adopting changes to the Senate bill that had been negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
House members, especially liberals, are demanding the companion bill be moved quickly through the Senate in order to address concerns regarding a Senate bill that they think is far too compromised and dysfunctional in its approach. In particularly, they propose to limit taxes on the health plans of middle-class families (so-called "Cadillac plans") and to provide more subsidies for low-income Americans to buy health insurance.