Politico: "Dem health care talks collapsing"

The wheels are coming off the train. Neither the House nor the Senate appear willing to make the necessary compromises to get the bill through and the White House isn't providing much guidance.

Health care reform teetered on the brink of collapse Thursday as House and Senate leaders struggled to coalesce around a strategy to rescue the plan, in the face of growing pessimism among lawmakers that the president’s top priority can survive.

The legislative landscape was filled with obstacles: House Democrats won’t pass the Senate bill. Senate Democrats don’t want to start from scratch just to appease the House. And the White House still isn’t telling Congress how to fix the problem.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both tried to put a good face on the obvious chaos on Thursday, promising to press on.

“We have to get a bill passed,” Pelosi told reporters. “We know that.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, “No way is it dead, because it’s so important for the country. And we will find a way to pass [it].”

But for the first time in the yearlong push, Democratic aides — and even some members — finally acknowledged privately that the fear of failure was real. And Congress recessed for the weekend without an obvious path forward as rank-and-file Democrats started splintering in different directions.

Democrats struggled all year to maintain a coalition in support of health care reform without any GOP votes. Republican Scott Brown’s improbable win in Massachusetts on Tuesday now looks like it has the potential to end that almost-impossible balancing act.

This post-Massachusetts confusion raises the stakes for President Barack Obama’s first official State of the Union address next week, which some now believe must be a last-ditch effort to get health care finished. . . .

Meanwhile, Obama is still trying to say that he will get the government health care takeover through.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer tried to reassure the left with a post on the White House blog insisting that Obama still believes health care will get done.

“Right now there are a lot of discussions going on about the best path forward,” Pfeiffer wrote. “But let's be clear that the President's preference is to pass a bill that meets the principles he laid out months ago: more stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage options for those who don’t, and lower costs for families, businesses and governments.” . . .

This really upsets me no end. But Paul Krugman is apparently "near to 'giving up' on President Barack Obama."



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