Time for another chat

TIME FOR ANOTHER CHAT…. It was just eight days ago that President Obama made a relatively rare visit to Capitol Hill, pressing the Senate Democratic caucus on health care reform. There were no reporters in the room, but by one account, the president reminded the lawmakers, “Decades from now, this will be the kind of vote you remember. It will be written in the faces of children and families who are relieved of the burden of anxiety and sorrow.”

The reminder seemed to be well received. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Obama’s remarks helped “more than significantly.” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) added, “I can tell you, it would be very hard to have listened to the president’s presentation and not have been persuaded of the historic importance of what’s being discussed here. It was a powerful speech.” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said, “It was much more than a pep talk. It was a call to arms, a call to destiny.”

In the aftermath of the remarks, health care reform seemed to be on track. Two days after hearing from the president, a diverse group of Dems agreed to a compromise framework on the public option. There were key disputes, but all of the relevant players seemed confident that this effort was finally coming together.

A week later, the process is in turmoil, and Joe Lieberman’s betrayal has raised the real possibility that nine months of exhausting work on a reform bill may produce literally nothing, and the best opportunity America has ever had to reform the dysfunctional system will slip away.

And with that in mind, it looks like it’s time for a trip to the principal’s president’s office.

President Barack Obama will meet with Senate Democrats at the White House Tuesday to press for action at a make-or-break moment for his health care overhaul.

All 60 members of the Democratic caucus have been invited, according to three Democratic officials.

It will be the second meeting of the full caucus over a 24-hour period — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a special meeting of the caucus, which will start in about a half-hour.

The president’s task obviously won’t be easy, though I suspect the message will be pretty straightforward: failure is not an option. Also count on Obama to emphasize the calendar: if the Senate is going to pass a bill by Christmas, a deal will have to be in place this week.