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Obama agenda: The health-care pitch

The New York Times: "President Obama, beginning his final push for a health care overhaul, called Wednesday for Congress to allow an 'up or down vote' on the measure, and sketched out an ambitious — and, some Democrats said, unrealistic — timetable for his party to pass a bill on its own within weeks."

The Washington Post adds, "In a speech at the White House, Obama urged Congress to "finish its work" on health care and indicated support for a strategy that includes the budget maneuver known as reconciliation, which would protect the final product from a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Obama told an audience of medical professionals that Congress 'owes the American people a final vote on health-care reform.'"

The Boston Globe: "Obama's comments, the strongest public tactical direction he has offered in the 15-month battle over health care overhaul, were welcomed by Democrats, some of whom have been grousing privately that Obama needed to show more leadership."

Roll Call writes of Obama's message to Congress yesterday: "No more meetings. No more compromises. Pass a final health care reform bill within the next three weeks."

Roll Call also reports on this good news for Democrats -- moderates appear open to the idea of reconciliation now, a change from a year ago.

Democratic Rep. John Dingell has this op-ed in the Detroit News: "While we would prefer to have bipartisan support for health care reform, the universal opposition of Republicans leaves us no option other than to consider using budget reconciliation going forward. This is despite the historic efforts of President Barack Obama to incorporate the ideas of anyone willing to seriously help cut our spiraling, out-of-control health care costs."

"And don't be fooled by rhetoric that reconciliation is a gimmick. It's not. Reconciliation has been used to reform health care before. COBRA health insurance subsidies for the unemployed, the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicare Advantage all passed under reconciliation. Between 1981 and 2008, reconciliation has been used 21 times. The vast majority of the bills -- 16 out of the 21 -- have been initiated by Republicans. And many of these were for sweeping policy changes. Most recently, Republicans used the reconciliation process to enact the $1.3 trillion George W. Bush tax cuts."

Stu Rothenberg notes how much has changed in a year for Democrats -- and how they botched health reform. "Unfortunately for Democrats, passing legislation between now and November isn't likely to change the political landscape nationally, though it could close the enthusiasm gap by energizing Democratic voters who have been disappointed by the Obama administration's performance… Still, Democratic leaders from the White House to Congress have to do anything they can to alter the trajectory of the 2010 elections, and with eight months to go until Election Day, almost anything is possible. But the one thing Obama and Congressional Democrats need is some good news."