While Obama rallies, health bill given breathing room

The day after President Obama sought to rally support for his massive overhaul of the nation's healthcare system, leaders of both chambers of Congress backed off their deadlines for passing the bill.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) officially punted the Senate debate on healthcare to September. Senate leaders told reporters at a news conference they'd decided Wednesday night to put off the vote.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
"The Republicans have asked for more time, and I don't think it's unreasonable," Reid said at a noon press conference.
 
On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reversed her position that the public wants the House to work into the scheduled August recess to finish the bill. She brushed off the concerns of many in her party that leaving for the break would give the bill's opponents more time to rally opposition.
 
"I'm not afraid of August," Pelosi said. "It's a month."
 
Pelosi said she believes the differences in her caucus can be resolved by the end of the week, and says the votes are there to pass the bill. Still, that's a reversal from Wednesday, when Pelosi said the American public would want lawmakers to work into their recess to pass a bill.
 
It’s also an indication they're likely to fail to meet a deadline that Obama and Democratic leaders had set for themselves — passing a healthcare bill in each chamber before leaving for recess.
 
And it’s a sign that Obama's policy-heavy appeal to the nation Wednesday night — followed by a Thursday visit to the Cleveland Clinic and a healthcare town hall-style rally in Ohio — failed to provide the extra momentum needed to get bills passed.
 
Obama's job approval rating has slid from the 60s to the 50s as the healthcare debate moved from broad ideas to specific proposals. And the number of people who disagree with the way he's doing his job has shot from 28 percent in April to 43 percent earlier this month, according to AP-Gfk polls.
 
That emboldens Republicans and leaves more vulnerable Democrats fearing that they have little political cover to take tough votes.