House Dem: Obama not leading on healthcare

President Barack Obama is falling short as Democrats' leader in the fight for health reform, according to a freshman Dem lawmaker.

Freshman Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) openly lamented the Obama administration's calculated decision to let the House and Senate craft their own health bills, with the congressman blaming the president for the vast discrepancies between the two bills now.

"The Senate bill and the House bill are on different planets," Massa said during an appearance on the liberal "Bill Press Radio Show" podcast. "And they're on different planets because, as much as I want this administration to succeed, they did not present a piece of legislation to the United States Congress.

"We still don't have a piece of paper that says what his plan is. We're kind of like pilots flying blind," he added.

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The congressman also faulted the president for failing to lead Democratic troops during the contentious August recess period.

"It was the perception of many that the administration stayed on the sidelines of the summertime healthcare debate until the president, rightly so, addressed a joint session of Congress and solidified this as being a top priority.

"But if you believe that the battle of public opinion was fought in town hall meetings this summer across this country, then you've also got to agree that the army of healthcare reform and their commanding general stayed in the barracks," Massa added.

The raucous August town hall meetings put some lawmakers on their heels as some constituents and activists angrily questioned health reform proposals under consideration in Washington. That period saw a downturn in public support for some elements of healthcare reform before lawmakers returned to Washington in September to finish crafting their health bills.

Massa is a first-term lawmaker elected in a competitive western New York district last fall. He has been pushing for a health bill substantially more liberal than what's been proposed, calling current legislation a "giveaway" to private health insurers.