President Barack Obama will lay out what White House officials call the "final act" in his efforts and those of the Democratic majority in Congress to pass health care reform legislation. The president will use a statement on Wednesday to offer a revised proposal that might contain more ideas from minority Republicans lawmakers who have opposed health care legislation.
After spending last year trying to get health care reform through Congress, President Obama now finds himself in the third month of 2010 facing united Republican opposition, and skepticism among some members of his own Democratic Party.
The House of Representatives and the Senate approved separate health care bills last year. But lawmakers have been unable to come up with a final bill to send to the president, who used an unprecedented, televised health care summit with lawmakers from both major political parties last week to try to find common ground.
As proposed by Democrats, the legislation would extend coverage to some 30 million uninsured Americans during the next 10 years and require most to buy health insurance. It does not contain a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers.
Briefing reporters on the eve of the president's statement, to be delivered at the White House, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs avoided getting into details about what changes the president might propose.
He said the president and his advisors continued to work through final decisions, but he declined to confirm media reports that some key proposals put forward by Republicans would be part of the plan.
In a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, President Obama listed four proposals favored by Republicans that he said he remained open to including in legislation. At the same time, he made clear again that he rejects Republican calls to scrap the House and Senate-passed bills and start the process over.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are working on their strategy, which would likely involve a vote in the House to pass the $871-billion measure approved in December by the Senate.
The Senate would then attempt to pass a separate measure aimed at making the overall measure acceptable to the broadest number of lawmakers. This would be done using a procedure, strongly opposed by Republicans that would allow a 51 vote majority approval rather than a "super-majority" of 60 votes.
Pelosi told reporters late Tuesday that she hopes President Obama will succeed in his efforts to break Republican opposition, but said he remains focused on expanding the availability of affordable health care. "It's a bill about affordable health care for all Americans, and that is the momentum that will take us to a majority vote in the Congress," he said.
White House Spokesman Gibbs told reporters on Monday that President Obama is committed to moving forward with health care reform. "The president believes strongly that he was elected to make progress on issues that had confounded and vexed Congress and the political system for years, health care being one of the bigger ones," he said.
When asked on Tuesday about threats by Republicans to force weeks of delay in the Senate if Democrats use this procedural technique, Gibbs suggested that Republicans were misreading the political environment if they think Americans favor what he called "more obstructionism and game playing."
Gibbs said the president intends to work hard in the coming weeks to obtain the necessary votes, including from skeptical Democrats, to pass health care reform.
Asked whether events after the president's Wednesday statement would constitute the "final act" in the more than year-long battle over health care, Gibbs responded in the affirmative.