Healthcare Slipping Away ...

The reviews are in — President Obama clearly didn't prod members of his own party to reach consensus on a healthcare bill that could pass the House with his primetime news conference Wednesday night.

Obama felt the need to hold the press conference, but didn't feel the need to take the reins of the debate and back one or two ways to pay for overhauling the nation's healthcare system. Democrats who had spent the better part of two weeks trying to overcome disagreement in their own party were hoping Obama would pick one offset and then challenge them to back it. But Obama wouldn't bite.

Seeing the writing on the wall, the Senate has delayed floor action until September or beyond, and the House will likely follow suit. With a deadline missed and the president still leaving solutions to the fighting factions of his party, where will the pressure to pass reform come from?

There is yet to be a Senate bill, and why should conservative Democrats vote for the House bill with a tax increase when they know the Senate has already dismissed the idea? Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ran from the initial tax hike after only a few days. She wants the bill to tax millionaires now instead, but it's plain to see the idea remains unpopular in the party.

Blue Dogs don't like it and they are waiting to see what the Senate proposes. Right now they are threatening to vote against the bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would kill it. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said it may be time to ditch the committee and bring the bill straight to the floor.

"We're going to have to look at perhaps bypassing the committee because we've got to get moving on this legislation," he said. "I hope we don't come to that conclusion."

If that kind of talk is meant to move the Blue Dogs to vote for the bill in committee, it isn't likely to get the leadership very far. Bringing any bill as enormous and substantive as healthcare reform to the floor without appropriate committee consideration would bring criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

At what point will Obama step up and say to Democrats, "Get behind this plan with me, I believe it is best," and then work with them so they can support it? He said he would make the hard decisions, but why is he putting one off now? With the deadline missed, it is time for Obama to show leadership on healthcare, or he may never get the chance again.


SHOULD OBAMA HAVE TAKEN BACK HIS COMMENT ABOUT THE GATES ARREST? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, July 28th. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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