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Returning from Hawaii. (Photo/WWR)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

President's Thursday Schedule

Good Morning from WWR!

The Battle of Blair House

It is finally here: this morning’s long-awaited healthcare showdown between President Obama and lawmakers on the signature issue of Mr. Obama's presidency. It'll be on TV like everyone is clamoring for and is expected to last six hours.

It begins at 10am with opening comments from Mr. Obama, then Republican and Democratic leaders. The conference will focus on four key areas:

• Controlling costs
• Insurance reforms
• Reducing the deficit
• Expanding coverage

The White House clearly hopes it'll be like that recent appearance by Obama before at a House GOP issues conference in Baltimore. Obama was at his best that day – sharp, engaging, witty – and the Republican lawmakers, while no slouches themselves, appeared to be somewhat deferential to the president, engaging in verbal combat – though not aggressively enough, some of them said afterwards – before crowding around Obama to shake his hand afterwards.

Obama will bring those same skills to the table tomorrow – they come naturally to him - but if the White House is expecting Republicans to act as they did in Charm City, they are probably mistaken. This is more than evident in some of the verbal sparring that’s already underway. To wit, the GOP leadership has already blasted Obama’s plan as “a costly job-killing” initiative. They’re demanding that the president rip up his plan and start from scratch. But that “doesn’t make sense,” says Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.

Even so, the White House is, on the surface, hopeful that something can come of tomorrow’s showdown. Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, says the president’s plan is “a starting point…(that) can be added to by the ideas that Republicans bring,” he said.

What are the Republican ideas, anyway? For starters, they want insurance policies to be sold across state lines – if you live in Florida, you can buy health insurance from a company in Illinois. They favor universal access to healthcare, even for people with pre-existing conditions and they favor pooling small companies together to buy health insurance policies in bulk.

And the Obama plan? The president also wants to end discrimination against citizens with pre-existing conditions. The White House plan (and bills that have passed the House and Senate) also requires, in its essence, everyone to have insurance and subsidizing coverage for small businesses and the uninsured.

But the conference isn’t just about healthcare, no, no, no. This is Washington and it’s an even-numbered year, which means everyone is looking to the November midterm election. Fresh off victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts, Republicans have every reason to believe public sentiment is shifting their way – hardly an incentive to help give a Democratic President something he so desperately wants.

The calendar has Democrats leery too – and that’s not even counting the Dems who are livid with the White House for omitting the public option from the Obama plan.

It would appear that the calendar and the political winds are less than favorable to the President. The “Battle of Blair House” may make for some interesting TV, but don’t look for healthcare reform – the holy grail that has eluded Presidents for decades – to emerge.

President’s Thursday Schedule

Presidential Daily Briefing (Oval Office)

10:00 AM THE PRESIDENT hosts a bipartisan meeting to discuss
health reform legislation (Blair House)

4:30 PM THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks and presents the
awards for the 2009 National Medal of Arts and
National Humanities Medal (East Room)

On This Day
1793 – President Washington held the first cabinet meeting.

Presidential Quote of the Day
"The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people." = Andrew Johnson

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