Obama makes his pitch to Dems on left and right

OBAMA MAKES HIS PITCH TO DEMS ON LEFT AND RIGHT…. President Obama hosted two meetings at the White House yesterday — one with liberal House Democrats who are concerned the pending health care reform proposal isn’t liberal enough, one with center-right House Democrats who are concerned the pending health care reform proposal isn’t center-right enough.

By most accounts, the meetings went pretty well. Participants from the progressive meeting, in particular, had quite a bit to say afterwards.

President Obama began his meeting with leading House progressives by bringing in a letter from an Ohio woman who wrote him to say that her skyrocketing premiums will soon cause her to lose her health insurance.

“It was a very serious, low-key discussion. If this was a piano, you’re hearing very deep chords here,” said one member who asked for anonymity.

Obama argued to the group of progressive members that his health care reform bill should be looked at as the foundation of reform, that can be built on in the future. He asked them to help gather votes for the final health care battle and promised that as soon as the bill was signed into law, he’d continue to push to make it stronger. But in a matter of weeks, he stressed, he could sign into law legislation that would lead to 31 million new people being insured, including the woman who wrote him.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who had threatened earlier in the week to join conservative Republicans in killing health care, sounded far less frustrated after yesterday’s discussion. In fact, he described the president’s pitch as “compelling.” The Progressive Caucus’s other co-chair, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), said she’s a definite “yes” vote — if the discussions over a reconciliation fix go well — even without a public option in the final bill.

And speaking of the public option, the president told the progressive lawmakers that he simply does not believe the votes will materialize to pass the measure, but he reiterated his support for the provision and assured those in attendance that he would continue to pursue a public option in the future. The key, Obama said, was to get this reform package into law, which would create a foundation that could be built upon in the coming years.

That’s not an unreasonable plan: “A bill offering a public option and Medicare buy-in to age 55 would be a popular bill, and a good bill, and could be done after health-care reform had passed. The administration and others like to say that the Senate legislation is just a start, and they should begin acting on that belief. Pass the start, and then begin trying to make it better with smaller, discrete bills that are easier to message and pass.”

As for the second discussion of the day, with less liberal House Dems, there was less post-meeting chatter, but said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, signaled optimism. “When all is said and done, we will have the votes to pass healthcare reform,” Crowley said.