White House hosts ‘marathon’ session on health care

WHITE HOUSE HOSTS ‘MARATHON’ SESSION ON HEALTH CARE…. Several congressional leaders and their staffs headed to the White House yesterday for some discussions on the state of the health care reform bill. They probably had no idea what they were about to endure.

What began as some scheduled negotiations at around 10:30 am (ET) ended up lasting, at the president’s urging, for more than eight hours. By all appearances, President Obama is ready to see this process end.

With Democratic bickering threatening to imperil enactment of health care reform this year, President Barack Obama tried to stem the tide of intraparty unrest Wednesday by insisting that House and Senate leaders huddle at the White House until they had reached agreements on key issues.

Top party leaders and key committee chairmen emerged from a marathon negotiating session at the White House around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday night, but they planned to meet again Thursday. [….]

Obama, Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a joint statement Wednesday evening, saying, “Today we made significant progress in bridging the remaining gaps between the two health insurance reform bills. We’re encouraged and energized, and we’re resolved to deliver reform legislation that provides more stability and security for those with insurance, extends coverage to those who don’t have coverage, and lowers costs for families, businesses, and governments.”

These were not casual talks. Top lawmakers huddled in the Cabinet room, with the president, vice president, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Director of Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro, and health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle on hand. Staffers huddled next door in the Roosevelt Room. Every participant in both rooms were told they must leave their phones and BlackBerrys at the door, so as to not be distracted from the task at hand.

The NYT noted, “By all accounts, the session was extraordinary.” Politico added, “[T]he marathon session signaled that House and Senate leaders — with the president in the room for much of the day — were far closer to resolution on the issues that have divided the two chambers for months.”

The main sticking point, of course, continues to be financing. No surprise there.

The talks will continue today, with the president continuing to maintain a greater hands-on role than at any point in the process to date. Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said of Obama, “He’s really got his sleeves rolled up. I think he’s picking the right moment to be engaged.”

The president will also address the House Democratic Caucus retreat this afternoon. By all appearances, they can probably use a pep talk.