Despite recent setbacks, President Obama still thinks he has a good chance to win approval for his healthcare overhaul in the next four months. In an assessment of the fall agenda provided to U.S. News, White House officials say Obama is convinced that all the media reports on the decline in public support for his healthcare plans are exaggerated.
A White House spokesman says that Obama plans a "relatively quiet" phase this week as he spends much of his time at Camp David, Md., as a supplement to his vacation at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts last week. Obama may contact members of Congress to coordinate strategy and solicit support for healthcare legislation, his top domestic priority, but he doesn't plan much heavy lifting quite yet.
That will start next week when members of Congress return from their summer break. "While there continues to be a debate over the details, there is little debate that there should be healthcare reform," an Obama adviser says, adding that members of Congress agree on many fundamentals, such as the need to make health coverage continue when people change jobs and to insure coverage when pre-existing medical conditions are found. "Our expectation is that a vigorous debate will continue playing out over some of the details of those proposals," but that doesn't change the consensus that some form of legislation is "critical to our economy" and should pass this year, the aide says. He adds that most of the "stakeholders" who would be deeply affected by reform are still "at the table" working on a compromise, in contrast to 16 years ago when many of these forces were at odds as healthcare was debated during the Clinton administration. Overall, Obama "sees this as a critical time in his presidency," the aide says, and the president "has a sense of an opportunity to be grasped, an opportunity to seize the moment and get some important things done."