Blue Dog Dem: Health Care Bill is “Months Away”

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 23, 2009 1:45pm

ABC News’ David Chalian reports:  One of President Obama’s target audiences at last night’s primetime press conference were the moderate Democrats in Congress he desperately needs to pass his desired version of health care reform.  According to one Blue Dog Democrat in the House, the president seems to have done himself some good, but unlike Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) doesn’t see the votes quite there yet to pass a bill. “I thought the President was making the right points last night. We do need a deficit neutral bill that bends the cost curve in the right direction. We also need a bill that works and works for every American so the President stressed the right points. I hope that congressional leadership will listen,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) on ABC News’ “Top Line.” “Well she may be a better counter than I am but I don’t see them,” Cooper said when asked about Speaker Pelosi’s assertion that she has the votes. Rep. Cooper also suggested that the health care reform effort is moving out of the fast lane.  “This is the early stage of a debate. It’s early and  I’m glad for all the media interest in it, but we are months away from a resolution of this problem,” he said. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports that Senate majority leader Harry Reid seems to agree with that sentiment.  Sen. Reid announced this afternoon that the only deadline in the Senate is to get a bill out of the Finance Committee before the August recess, kicking the president’s deadline for the full Senate vote until after the August break. In last night’s press conference, President Obama clearly endorsed the idea of a surtax on millionaires to help pay for health care reform.  That seems to be a sticking point for Rep. Cooper, but not necessarily a clear red line he refuses to cross. “Well you really, I think, don’t need to have any new taxes in this legislation. There’s so much waste in today’s healthcare system. It’s estimated to be about $700 billion every year. We need to be capturing that waste instead of thinking of taxing new people,” he said. The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn also joined us to assess the president’s press conference performance and whether or not he advanced the ball in the health care debate. “The way you get a bill like this through Congress is you need a swell of support. You need people calling their members of Congress on the phone saying ‘I want health reform’ and to do that he’s got to reassure the public that it’s not something that will threaten them.  But he also has to convince the public that this is something they want and something they need,” Cohn told us.

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