Getting the reform drive back on track (maybe)

GETTING THE REFORM DRIVE BACK ON TRACK (MAYBE)…. After having been out of the country last week, and watching the health care reform initiative hit a few difficult speed bumps, President Obama seemed more than a little anxious yesterday to get the larger effort back on track.

That included something of a pep talk in the Rose Garden yesterday morning, but it also included some more direct intervention.

House Democrats are moving ahead with sweeping health care legislation as President Barack Obama prods a Senate committee chairman to take faster action on a companion measure.

Moving forcefully on his top domestic priority, Obama told Sen. Max Baucus he wants legislation ready by week’s end in the Finance Committee that Baucus chairs, according to numerous Democratic officials.

These officials said Obama made his wishes known directly to Baucus, D-Mont., at a White House meeting Monday attended by administration officials and senior Democratic lawmakers.

Given that the Senate Finance Committee wasn’t making any progress at all as recently as a week ago, this is an ambitious request.

The legislative landscape appears more encouraging in the House, where Dems expect to have a bill to unveil today. Though conservative Democrats are likely to disapprove in large numbers, note that a Blue Dog delegation had separate private meetings yesterday with both the president and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who is helping draft the House bill.

The results of those discussions were not immediately apparent, but Roll Call reported that Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) is confronting a “large bloc” of conservative Democrats “worried about the public insurance plan at the heart of the bill.”

I’ll have more on this later, but the timetable for the legislation remains at the forefront of the discussions. The NYT noted that the president urged members in his private meetings to “stick to his legislative timetable — he wants the House and the Senate to pass bills before the August recess.” There’s still talk that the White House may ask Congress to delay its recess, but for now, Democratic leaders say that won’t be necessary.