‘Top Line’ — Can Obama Break Logjams on Energy, Health Care?

Jun 29, 2009 3:40pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: President Obama’s main policy task during this week’s congressional break will be to keep the momentum going for his domestic priorities, with potential logjams throughout the legislative process. On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, we chatted with two leading Washington strategists about the prospects of energy and health care legislation. Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said the massive energy and environmental bill passed by the House Friday “is now limping into the Senate.” “It’s going to be mired into legislative quicksand, and it’s all because this is a national energy tax,” Bonjean said. “It’s going to tax manufacturers, small businesses, right down to the consumer, and those 44 Democrats [who voted against it] knew it. If you look at the vote break down, at least only 22 Democratic senators right now would support the climate change bill as it currently stands. And there are a lot of problems with it.” Countered Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl: “There was a time several weeks ago when no one truly expected that we would get the bill” out of the House. She added, “But it’s very clear that people are willing to work on this, and moreover, it’s very clear that the president and other officials at the White House are going to work with these legislators on important compromises.” On health care, Sefl acknowledged some political peril for President Obama if he embraces new taxes on benefits: “Anything involving this health care reform is going to be perilous. I think it’s naïve to discuss it in any other way, regardless of one’s party or ideological position on this.” Bonjean said that moving to tax health benefits is unlikely to help Obama pick up Republican support for his plans — notwithstanding Sen. John McCain’s support for that concept in the campaign: “Oh yeah,  it certainly was part of McCain’s plan — and he’s not president. And I think if you talk to Americans across the country if they heard that their taxes were going to increase on health care benefits they wouldn’t be too happy about it, considering the state of the economy.” Watch the full exchange with Tracy Sefl and Ron Bonjean HERE.   Also today, we spoke with Mike Madden of Salon.com about the president’s meeting with gay-rights advocates today, the health care and energy bills, and the latest on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Watch the interview with Mike Madden HERE.

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