President Obama said today that he is not too worried about the controversial “deem and pass” strategy being considered on Capitol Hill, and that members should not “pretend” that a vote, in whatever form it ends up taking, is anything other than a vote for or against reform.
"I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate," Obama said in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier, "What I can tell you is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don't think we should pretend otherwise.”
The president said those that vote against reform will be voting for the status quo, regardless of the procedural tactics used.
“Washington gets very concerned with these procedures in Congress, this is always an issue whether Republicans are in charge or Democrats are in charge.”
Nudging Congress a bit – the president said that whatever they end up voting for he hopes it’s going to be “sometime this week.”
“If people don't believe in health care reform — and I think there are definitely a lot of people who are worried about whether or not these changes are, in some fashion, going to affect them adversely. And I think those are legitimate concerns on the substance — then somebody who votes for this bill, they're going to be judged at the polls. And the same is going to be true if they vote against it.”
The president said that the bill is “going to be posted” – and everybody’s going to be able to evaluate it on its merits – by the time the vote has taken place.
When pressed, the president acknowledged limits to the immediate impact of the health care reform legislation, noting that it “will not solve our whole Medicare problem.”
“We're still going to have to fix Medicare over the long term,” he said.
Baier asked Obama about each of the controversial sweetheart deals that were in the Senate health care legislation and the president said that while most are out.
“Now I have said that there are certain provisions, like this Nebraska one, that don't make sense. And they needed to be out. And we have removed those,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, what people are going to be able to say is that this legislation is going to be providing help to small businesses and individuals, across the board, in an even handed way, and providing people relief from a status quo that's just not working.”
But the president said there were exceptions, like the deal for Louisiana, which he said was set up to help a state going through a natural catastrophe.
Curiously he said that same provision would affect Hawaii, which he said “went through an earthquake.”
As for the “Gator-ade” deal that exempted Floridians from Medicare cuts, Obama said it was his “understanding” that the Medicare rules would apply across the board to all states.
The president again expressed confidence that the bill would pass, “because it’s the right thing to do.”
The interview had a contentious tone at times and both Obama and Baier let their frustrations show.
On four separate occasions Obama chided Baier for interrupting him or not letting him finish his answers, but the Fox anchor insisted he was just trying to pin Obama down on the specific points he was raising.
“I know you don't like to talk about process, but there are a lot of questions in these 18,000 that talk about process,” Baier said about the questions submitted by Fox News viewers. “And there are a lot of people around America that have a problem with this process.”
Obama’s frustrations with all the talk about process questions were evident.
“I've got to say to you, there are a lot more people who are concerned about the fact that they may be losing their house or going bankrupt because of health care,” the president said.
Obama said the conversation over health care reform “ends up being a little frustrating” because the focus is on “Washington process.”
“Yes, I have said that is an ugly process. It was ugly when Republicans were in charge, it was ugly were in Democrats were in charge,” he said.
-Sunlen Miller and Karen Travers