Getting Dems on the same page

GETTING DEMS ON THE SAME PAGE…. The White House had several goals going into President Obama’s Wednesday night speech on health care reform. Notably, Obama and his team saw the need to help get congressional Democratic factions — who’ve been at odds over several key elements — on the same page.

For the most part, the address was effective on this front.

President Obama’s speech on health care failed to bridge the gulf with Republicans, but Democrats said on Thursday that the president had largely succeeded in unifying his own party by making a cogent, persuasive pitch to the American public and by casting his plan to overhaul the health care system as a political and moral imperative.

The day after the nationally televised address, in which Mr. Obama signaled that he could accept an alternative to a government-run insurance plan, influential Democrats who previously seemed wedded to the public insurance option hinted that they, too, might be flexible.

Asked, for example, about demands for a public option in the final bill, Speaker Pelosi told reporters, “I don’t think you ever really go into a negotiation and say that some things are nonnegotiable.” She went on to say, “This is about a goal. It’s not about provisions.” As long as the bill meets the goals of “affordability and accessibility and quality,” Pelosi added, “then we will go forward with that bill.”

If it sounds to you like Pelosi has some new-found flexibility on the public option, then we’re thinking the same thing.

Far less progressive lawmakers, meanwhile, seem to think the speech helped ensure the larger reform effort is on track. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), for example, said, “The president’s speech breathed new life into what we are doing. The president is talking about what we are talking about. That is very helpful. We’re very close to being in sync here.”

And what about that meeting at the White House between the president and 17 centrists from the Senate Democratic caucus? The NYT reported, “Senators who attended the meeting at the White House said the main topic of discussion was controlling the overall cost of the health care plan. Several said they were optimistic that they could eventually support the bill.”

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said the president “reassured” centrist and center-right Dems with his emphasis on the “ends,” rather than the “means.”