Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 8/19/2009

By Caitlin Taylor

Aug 19, 2009 2:45pm

TAPPER: On July 19 in his weekly address, President Obama said that health care legislation must include a health care exchange with a public plan as part of that exchange.  Are we all wrong in — in assuming that the word "must" also applies to public plan or did it only apply to the exchange?
GIBBS:  I'd have to go back and look at the exact phrasing.
TAPPER:  I can't believe that you haven't looked at the exact phrasing of that phrase.  I mean, it's one of the most — it's one of the oft most cited quotes in terms of people saying, "This is why people think that President Obama is backing off a public plan.”

GIBBS:  I haven't looked at it in the last few days.
BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS:  We've all got it cued up, ready to go.
GIBBS:  I will pop popcorn and watch your newscast.

No, again, we can quibble about whether he phrased it one way that time.  We can quibble about the way he phrased it when he stood here in front of you all in June and talked about not drawing lines in the sand.  Again, I think the president has stated his position on that.
TAPPER:  OK.  And in terms of comments made recently by Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee whether — over — in negotiations, not necessarily in the Finance Committee, whether Senator Enzi in USA Today talking about the public plan, Senator Grassley's recent comments, it is still the intention and hope of this White House to have a bipartisan bill in the Senate?
GIBBS:  Absolutely.  The president believes strongly in working with Republicans and Democrats, independents, any that seek to reform health care, that want to see costs cut, coverage increased, insurance reforms implemented that no longer discriminate against families and individuals. The president strongly believes that we're making progress, had — has had conversations with members of the Finance Committee, as I said, in — Friday in Montana and others, and our preference is to work through — work through this process and hopefully come out with a bill that has agreement among both parties on that committee.
TAPPER:  Are you expecting any Republican votes for this bill in the Senate or the House?

GIBBS:  I think there are many that would like to see some health care reform.  And I trust that the three Republicans that are working in the Senate Finance Committee are doing so in good faith.  I have no reason to believe they're not.
TAPPER:  The question is, how is it that you think you can achieve a bipartisan bill when it seems you're having trouble achieving a partisan bill, with the divisions between the Democratic Party right now, between the Blue Dogs and — and the progressives in the House, between the…
GIBBS:  I think that sort of — you know, there are Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee that voted out a bill on the House side before we left for recess.  So I think this notion that — that there — there — it's impossible even to get agreement on our side on what a health care plan looks like belies the notion that this is a piece of legislation that went through not one, not two, but three committees on the House side.  I think the notion that we can't get something done like that just isn't true.
TAPPER:  Well, I guess I mean more of the divisions between the House and the Senate, what can make it through the Senate, according to some Senate Democrats, such as Conrad, and what's getting through the House?
GIBBS:  I think the president has talked about that's what we're going to spend the fall doing.  That's what — and, look, I think part of that progress is going to be what — what progress the Senate Finance Committee itself can make, working — Democrats and Republicans working together to come up with what we hope is a bipartisan solution.


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