Obama Battles the Political Gauntlet of Health Care

The president lays out his vision on health care reform -- will Congress follow?

ByABC News
June 23, 2009, 9:27 PM

WASHINGTON - June 24, 2009 -- The Obama administration is discovering what the Clinton administration learned 16 years ago: the politics of health care reform are treacherous.

Just a few months ago, President Obama seemed uniquely positioned to get Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform, something that has eluded every Democratic president since Harry Truman.

On March 5, the president convened a health care "summit" at the White House that brought together Democrats, Republicans, unions, businesses and health industry leaders. One by one, the key players -- many of whom had opposed reform efforts in the past -- assembled in the East Room of the White House, vowing to work together.

Watch "ABC News Primetime: Questions for the President -- Prescription for America" Wednesday, June 24, at 10 p.m. ET

"First of all I want to compliment the president on the process," Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, declared at the time. "I'm one of the ones that worked very hard to kill Hillary care, but this is a different time and this is a different approach."

The optimistic note was echoed by top business and health industry leaders, including Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (HIP), which created the famous "Harry and Louise" ads that helped kill President Clinton's health care bill in 1993.

"You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass health care reform this year," Ignagni told Obama.

"Thank you, Karen, that's good news," the president responded, pointedly noting that she was with the country's largest health insurance association.

But since then, it's been a bumpy road.

Barton, for example, has gone from a possible supporter of the president's efforts to an all-out opponent. Despite the president's promise to work with Republicans, Barton says Congressional Democrats have gone their own way.

"The Democrats didn't include us, didn't want our input, had apparently a pre-conceived notion that they wanted to nationalize health care and spend trillions of dollars that we don't have," Barton told ABC News.

He added that Democrats have drafted a bill that has "very little chance to ultimately succeed."