After facing a tough year with his healthcare reform agenda, President Barack Obama urged bipartisan cooperation during his State of the Union speech Wednesday night.
While the economy soaked up most of his speech, the president minced no words when he got around to healthcare. He has plans to help move the legislation forward, and said it may be difficult, but he won't shy away from the task.
"As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed," he said. "There's a reason why many doctors, nurses and healthcare experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo."
"But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know," he said.
Several of the proposals Obama offered during his speech show specifically how he plans to continue in the thick of the healthcare reform fray.
He said he plans to:
- meet monthly with the leadership of both houses;
- establish a bipartisan fiscal commission – by executive order, if need be; and
- urge Congress to post online all earmarks included in a bill.
These proposals address some of the largest threats to passage of healthcare reform so far. Obama said he plans to help end business as usual in Washington, putting the American people first. He indicated that monthly meetings with Congressional leaders would focus on this agenda.
A bipartisan fiscal commission could help to clarify misgivings between both parties and encourage direct communication and fact-finding related to budget and proposed bills, particularly the healthcare reform bills. GOP leaders claim the bills will cost money, while Congressional Budget Office reports indicate they would save money over time.
Public notification of earmarks could help to resolve concerns by the public and members of both parties that deals are being cut "behind closed doors" to pass the House and Senate healthcare reform bills.
"Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved," Obama said. More than likely, he was speaking of the Massachusetts Senate seat going to Republican Scott Brown.
He came down hard on both parties for the failure to pass a healthcare reform bill.
"To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills," he said.
He added, "if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership."
The president also proposed a freeze on federal spending, which would not include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This will be good news to doctors who are pushing for reimbursement increases and legislative action to revamp the Medicare payment system.