President Obama did not mention the "r" word.
But the president did say, in his much-anticipated speech on the urgency of health-care reform, that: "I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform."
If Republican remain in the "party-of-no" position they have maintained since the start of the health-care debate, however, it is going to take more than Obama’s belief to get the "up-or-down" vote he desires.
So has the president called in all but name for Senate Democrats to go the reconciliation route — adopting the parliamentary procedures that would allow them to thwart a Republican filibuster and force a vote?
More or less.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says of the approach the president has outlined: "This has been laid out in a way that provides us the maximum flexibility to get it done."
Translation: If the Republicans — or, if we’re being realistic, is a handful of Senate Republicans — want to work with the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to avoid a forced vote, Obama’s all ears.
Failing that, Obama has essentially signaled to Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, that they should work out a legislative package that follows the basic outlines of the 11-page synopsis the president presented at last week’s bipartisan health forum at Blair House. Then, if they get a good review from the Congressional Budget Office, Pelosi and Reid will begin taking the steps to pass the pieces of that package in the House and Senate.
Even operating under rules that require a mere majority vote — as opposed to a super-majority just to get a vote — there is no guarantee that the process will go smoothly.
Obama’s proposal rejects the tough restraints on access to reproductive-health services that were included in the House bill, which could make it hard for Pelosi to secure needed support of Democrats who oppose abortion rights.
In addition, the president has suggested that he is open to adopting a number of Republican proposals, including a mild version of tort reform that could leave victims of malpractice with less protection than they now have.
That could spark objections from Democrats in the House and Senate who have long recognized that sound legal remedies are needed to police insurance company abuses.
Another sticking point remains the concern, broadly expressed among Democrats in both chambers, that Obama’s plan is too compromised.
Obama has, for the most part, embraced the cautious Senate health-care reform bill, as opposed to the more ambitious House bill — which includes a public option to compete with insurance companies and hold down costs.
Progressives in the House and Senate have already raised concerns about the tepid character of what Obama is proposing, with several dozen senators urging the president to renew his previous commitment to include a public option.
"I think the president is wrong. I think it is a public mistake. I think the people, for all the right reasons, distrust private insurance companies. I think they want to look to a Medicare-type public option," says Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. "I think they should have that choice. And second of all, at a time when health care costs are soaring, vis-à-vis that 39 percent increase in California and all over the country, what a public option can do is keep private insurance companies honest, give people an option, hold them accountable. So I think the president is wrong and I think we should go forward and I think we could get the 50 votes that we need under reconciliation."
Sanders is, of course, correct.
Unfortunately, while Obama does seem to be suggesting that the time is near for reconciliation, he is not exactly going for the bold.
That may make it hard for the president to rally congressional Democrats or to energize support for the final push among grassroots activists who, for the most part, favor real reform along the lines of a "Medicare-for-All" single-payer plan.
For them, the public option was a compromise.
Now, Obama is asking them to back a compromised compromise.
And he is still suggesting, even as he hints about going the reconciliation route, that he is open to more compromises.
That’s what is so frustrating about Obama’s approach.
Even as he proposes to fight — and, make no mistake, hinting about reconciliation is proposing to fight — the president is pulling punches.
Obama would have a lot easier time pulling Democrats in Congress together, and inspiring an outpouring of popular support, if he was throwing them.