'Hail Mary Pass': Health Care Reform Bill by August

Chances for health care bill by August deadline increasingly unlikely.

July 19, 2009, 5:08 PM

July 19, 2009— -- President Obama's goal to have health care reform enacted by August appears to be increasingly in doubt.

"It would be analogous to a hail Mary pass in a football game," Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report told ABC News. "It increasingly looks virtually impossible."

With three weeks to go before Congress takes its monthlong break, White House budget director Peter Orszag was on the defensive Sunday.

"Some are advocating delay only because they don't have anything better to bring to table," Orszag told CNN.

Opponents of the president's plan got ammunition last week from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found the plan would leave millions uncovered and would not cut long-term costs.

"We do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount and, on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs," the CBO's Douglas Elmendorf said last week.

Today the president's top health adviser conceded there's much more work to be done.

"This is a work in progress and I think the House and Senate leaders share the president's goal that cost also come down," Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

In the Senate, even Democrats are dragging their feet.

"Our Democratic friends are having a hard time selling this to their own members, a very difficult time," Sibelius said on "Meet the Press."

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed exasperation over the Senate's slow action.

"Sure, we wish we had more time. But the president has given us a deadline. We're working under it. Our committee has reported out a bill. We're waiting for the Senate to do -- what? Do anything," Rangel said on CBS' "Face the Nation" program. "We have a deadline. We will meet it. The question is, what do we expect the other house to do? God only has the answer to that."

The White House clearly believes that meeting the president's deadline is key to bringing in a health care bill he can sign.

"The deadline is artificial but it does reflect a reality and the reality is the longer this drags out, the less likely that the president will get exactly what he wants and all that he wants," Rothenberg told ABC. "Look, there's still a very good chance that we're going to get a health care bill either later this year or a next year bill."

"There's going to be some sort of reform, I think most people believe, but in terms of the dramatic program, policy changes that the president wants, the longer this lasts the less likely that something dramatic is going to truly be passed and be signed," he added.

This week the president plans to launch a full-court press on health reform, with an interview on PBS on Monday and a prime-time press conference on Wednesday, where health care reform is expected to be topic number one.

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