Senate: Health Care Won't Get Done By August Recess

Obama says politics could obscure real suffering in health care status quo.

ByABC News
July 23, 2009, 8:03 AM

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2009— -- President Obama today showed no disappointment about the Senate's decision to delay a vote on health care reform beyond his initial deadline.

"That's OK," Obama said at a town hall meeting this afternoon at Shaker High School in Cleveland. "I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working."

"I want it done by the end of this year," Obama added. "I want it done by the fall."

Obama's remarks came shortly after the Senate announced it would not vote on a health care bill before Congress' August recess.

The timeline the president had hoped for was deemed unrealistic today, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a Senate version of health care reform won't be finished before the break. Reid instead laid out new plans, saying the Senate Finance Committee would vote on its pieces of the measure before the Aug. 7 break, and he would then work on marrying that bill with the proposal to come out of a separate Senate health panel.

Reid said the Senate would consider the soon-to-be-merged bill shortly after the Senate returns Sept. 7.

Today Reid said he's honoring the requests of Republicans asking for more time.

"The decision was made to give them more time for the Finance Committee part of what we're trying to do, and I don't think it's unreasonable," he said.

"It's better to have a product based on quality and thoughtfulness than trying to jam something through," Reid added.

Today Obama said he's willing to wait until fall, or even the end of the year to get a comprehensive health care bill passed.

"My attitude is, I want to get it right, but I also want to get it done promptly," Obama said. "And so as long as I see folks working diligently and consistently, then I am comfortable with moving a process forward that builds as much consensus as possible."

Obama headed to Ohio today for a tour of the Cleveland Clinic, which he cited Wednesday night as "a role model for some of the kind of changes that we want to see."

"They've set up a system where patient care is the No. 1 concern, not bureaucracy, what forms have to be filled out, what do we get reimbursed for," the president said. "Those are changes that I think the American people want to see."

While the Senate was announcing its plans, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters today that a House bill is on schedule.

"I am not afraid of August," Pelosi said, though it's looking more and more likely there will be a delay in the House as well. Pelosi insisted she has the votes to pass the bill but wouldn't say when that would be.

The chief concerns among Democrats include the costs to overhaul the program and tax increases on the wealthy.

Pelosi admitted there were issues that needed to be resolved but expressed confidence that they could be ironed out in the next 48 hours.

To do so, she'll need to resolve a deadlock between moderate Blue Dog Democrats and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., in the House Energy and Commerce committee. Pelosi had a contentious closed-door meeting today with her Democratic caucus about whether or not the measure needs more time. The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said today the House should not go into recess until passing the bill.

Citing the "more than 130 national organizations," including the American Medical Association, that have backed Obama on his health care plan, Pelosi plugged reform as "probably the single most important initiative we can take to turn our economy around."

"I am very confident that we will be on schedule and we will be able to present a wonderful gift to the American people -- gift of confidence and of peace of mind," she said in a news conference.

Republicans also continue to step up their counteroffensive. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, repeated his calls for a new bill, saying that lawmakers should throw out the bill and start fresh.

There are currently four different bills circulating in Congress.