Why the Health Care Clock Might Be Ticking

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 20, 2009 8:44am

White House staffers were working all weekend with members and staffers from the House and Senate to try to resolve more than a dozen major points of disagreement on health care reform — from how to fund it to whether there should be a public plan.

President Obama wants the Senate Finance Committee to finish their bill by Friday.

So all week, starting today, the president will be aggressively pushing for quick congressional action — a prime time press conference Wednesday, a trip to the Cleveland Clinic Thursday.

And from his sick bed, Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., has written an essay in Newsweek backing the president's effort calling health care reform the cause of his life.

In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, the President's approval rating for handling health care has slipped under 50%. And for first time in our polling significantly more Americans disapprove strongly of his handling of health care reform than approve strongly, so he's dealing with an intensity gap as well.

the fact that the president's job approval rating is so closely tied to the economy, and both are sinking, sheds some insight into why he's pressing for health care reform now. As the economy continues to tank, he may not have for much longer the political strength to push something this dramatic.  As our polling director Gary Langer points out, the president's challenge, simply, is that pushback to health reform works. As much as they like the idea of fixing the system, most Americans also are satisfied with their current quality of care, coverage and even cost, and are worried that a new system might make these worse.

The new poll included a question describing an outline of the health care reform plan that House Democrats recently introduced, and 54% expressed support for it. That's not an incredibly high number, and that didn't include any of the pushback language that for so long has worked so effectively on countering health care reform efforts.

- jpt

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