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Obama agenda: Can't we all get along?

The Boston Globe: "As President Obama prepares to deliver a make-or-break address on health care to a joint session of Congress next week, he is expected to turn the focus away from controversial issues such as the 'public option' plan and toward key areas of bipartisan agreement, including enabling anyone to buy insurance regardless of preexisting conditions, according to White House and congressional officials."
 
More: "Obama health-care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle "stressed that Obama wants much more in his health care overhaul, including federal subsidies for lower-income people who can't afford to buy insurance. But if some parts of the reform effort fail to gain enough support, Obama could deploy a backup plan that includes measures such as ending the denial of coverage - and give him an interim victory. At the least, the potential for passing such a plan could give the president leverage to win concessions from Congress."

Roll Call says that "according to talking points being circulated in the Senate by the White House in advance of Obama's prime-time speech, at least some of the president's message will remain the same: Obama will frame the health care debate as one that pits those who want to improve the system against those who support the status quo." Another bullet: "The speech will make clear what health insurance reform means." And: "After this speech, opponents of health reform will either need to propose their own plan, or explain why they think it's best to do nothing while premiums crush American families and thousands lose their coverage everyday."

The AP calls Obama's speech a "test of leadership." "Vacation is over. Obama's decision to give a prime-time speech to Congress on Wednesday underscores the stakes for a president, and even a young presidency."

The New York Daily News' DeFrank: "Obama insiders know the double-down speech is more about reasserting the President's authority than a desperate bid to revive health care reform from life support. In fact, inside the Beltway, even die-hard Republican opponents recognize a bill of some kind is all but certain to pass Congress this fall. Though it will likely be less than Obama wants, he'll reap some credit. What it won't do is cure all that ails Obama." More: "It's a tricky proposition. Aides are convinced Obama will prevail, even as they acknowledge the downside risk of failure. 'The danger is, he does this and the numbers don't move,' said one Obama strategist. 'Then he looks weak.' Or worse: irrelevant." 

Writing in the latest issue of National Journal, Ron Brownstein notes that the angry town halls over the summer were just part of the story on health care. "With much less notice, many key stakeholders in the medical establishment, including several that mobilized against previous efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system, have come together behind reform. "That's very different from what we've ever experienced before and why there is every reason to be optimistic that health care reform will happen," says Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal health advocacy group."

More: "You wouldn't know it from watching cable television, but many traditional antagonists in the health debate now support the basic thrust of the Democratic reform bills. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has long allied with the GOP; the drug industry has directed two-thirds of its political donations since 1990 toward Republicans, and it fiercely opposed President Clinton's universal coverage plan. Yet today, PhRMA is spearheading an odd-couple coalition called Americans for Stable Quality Care that is advertising heavily to support the reform plans advancing in Congress."

The AP: "Interest groups are unleashing a torrent of modern and old-fashioned lobbying tactics at members of Congress returning for the autumn battle over health care, from spending sky-high amounts on TV ads to staging rallies in the capital and perhaps outside insurance company offices." 

And get this: "The nation's television stations, which last month hosted more than $28 million in ads on the health overhaul, may see even heavier spending in September, according to Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group in Arlington, Va. Should the health battle spill into December, this year's total might hit $200 million -- roughly the same as was spent in multiyear fights over tobacco regulation and the Medicare prescription drug program, said Tracey, whose company tracks political advertising."

Roll Call: "The bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members hoping to reach a compromise on health care reform is set to resume its discussions via teleconference at 10:30 a.m. Friday, according to Senate sources."

Clunkers afterlife: This is "the beginning of a lesser-known phase of the $3 billion cash for clunkers program, which ended last week with nearly 700,000 gas guzzlers traded nationwide for more fuel-efficient vehicles," The Boston Globe writes. "It is the dawn of the clunkers' afterlife, particularly for their components and frames, which have begun flooding the used parts and scrap-recycling markets with more than 100 million tons of steel, batteries, and tires, among other things."