Without signaling retreat or surrender on aspects of health care reform, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reached for the most optimistic assessment possible of the slow work underway on Capitol Hill with health care reform.
Gibbs conceded the fate of a public option health insurance offering and other elements are evolving and agreed "we've got many more twists and turns to go" before House and Senate versions of the legislation are reconciled into one.
The White House is grudging about what it knows, if anything, about what's happening behind closed doors in the Senate: "They are talking about issues and making progress," Gibbs says. "We are working through outstanding issues to get legislation through the Energy and Commerce Committee, and I know the Senate Finance Committee is working to produce a plan they can mark up relatively soon as well. " Gibbs confirms the President phoned several of the Senators yesterday although not Baucus or Grassley.
"Our main focus is on ensuring we have that choice and competition in a way that meets the President's priorities." Gibbs sees a "fair amount of agreement" between the House and Senate language so far.
Then Gibbs headed for Marine One to join President Obama for two more town halls on health care, one at a Kroger grocery in Bristol, Virginia, and the other in Raleigh, North Carolina. Gibbs confirmed that despite his college days in the western part of the state where tomato-based barbeque sauce is considered the gold standard, he remains solidly in the camp favoring vinegar-based sauce on barbequed pork, a Carolina classic.
"I'm vinegar-based Eastern North Carolina, but as you can tell," Gibbs said, patting his waistline, "I'm not a descerning barbeque eater. I'm not going to turn any of it down."