Obama still wants to ‘punch it through’

OBAMA STILL WANTS TO ‘PUNCH IT THROUGH’…. There’s been ample debate about President Obama’s commitment to getting health care reform done, and there’s even some evidence to suggest a division among his top aides, with Axelrod and Emanuel at odds over how best to proceed.

But in New Hampshire yesterday, the president didn’t sound like someone prepared to let go.

President Obama hit the road again Tuesday to promote the new job-creation program he described as his No. 1 priority, but he refused to abandon his embattled health care legislation, vowing to “punch it through” resistance in Congress. […]

“Suddenly everybody says, ‘Oh no, it’s over,’ ” Mr. Obama said in mocking tones [in reference to health care reform]. “Well, no, it’s not over. We just have to make sure that we move methodically and that the American people understand what’s in the bill.”

The strong emphasis on health care came a week after he did not mention it until deep into his State of the Union address, and he seemed intent on erasing any doubts about his commitment.

“We had to go into overtime,” Mr. Obama said. “But we are now in the red zone. That’s exactly right. We’re in the red zone. We’ve got to punch it through.”

After noting the plight of those suffering under the status quo, the president added, “I am not going to walk away from these efforts. I will not walk away from these people, and Congress shouldn’t either. We should keep working to get it done — Democrats and Republicans together, let’s get it done this year.”

He even urged reform supporters to keep working the phones: “[W]hat I will not do is to stop working on this issue — because it is the right thing to do for America. And you need to let your members of Congress know they shouldn’t give up, they should keep on pushing to make it happen.”

If the president is prepared to walk away from health care reform and pivot to other issues, he has a funny way of showing it.

But there are two lingering questions for which there is no clear answer. The first is what the president is prepared to do, publicly and/or privately, to move the negotiations forward. The standoff between the House and Senate is intensifying. Will Obama work to bring them closer together?

The second is where, exactly, Obama wants the process to go moving forward. He continues to talk about trying to bring Republicans on board with reform, which seems extremely unlikely. Indeed, making reform’s fate dependent on even a little GOP support will almost certainly kill the initiative.

There’s a better, quicker, more effective, and more efficient way to go — the House passes the already-approved Senate bill, the Senate agrees to improvements through reconciliation. If “we’ve got to punch it through,” and I believe we must, this is the way to get it done.