By Sam Youngman - 08/13/09 03:54 PM EDT
President Barack Obama will defend his healthcare plan at two more town hall meetings this week as his administration argues the contentious gatherings are not indicative of the general public's opinion on reform.
Obama departs for Bozeman, Mont., on Friday, where he will hold his second town hall of the week, this one with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional committees that has to pass a healthcare reform proposal.
On Tuesday he held one in Portsmouth, N.H., that was devoid of any of the harsh back-and-forth seen at some events lawmakers have held in their home states.
The contentious town hall meetings have made headlines and dominated the cable news channels this week.
Republicans have stepped up their criticisms of healthcare reform but White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the president wants a bipartisan bill.
The purpose of the town hall offensive is the president thinks "it is important to address misconceptions or misimpressions that have been left out there about the bills."
"I do believe that the president feels strongly that when he makes his case, it helps the case for overall healthcare reform," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said the president was "satisfied" with the exchanges in New Hampshire, and Obama feels like he is making "progress."
But Gibbs conceded that some Republican attacks have led to less-than-encouraging poll numbers for the White House.
Gibbs noted "the president isn't out doing town hall meetings just for his health."
"Have some of those misconceptions contributed to the poll numbers? I don't doubt that," Gibbs said. "But at the same time, I mean, there's a little cause and effect here, but we're not going to stop pushing back on the misconceptions. Whether or not the polling shows one thing or another, the president, again, strongly believes that, and has for years, that it's better to address what people's concerns are and taken them on head-on."
The "death panel" issue reached the forefront after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) raised it twice, and it has come to dominate much of the healthcare debate.
But on Thursday Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced the provision will not appear in the Finance panel's bill.
"On the Finance Committee, we are working very hard to avoid unintended
consequences by methodically working through the complexities of all of
these issues and policy options," Grassley said in
a statement. "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration
entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and
The Finance Committee is the only congressional committee not to report out a preliminary healthcare bill before the August recess, but it is expected to unveil its proposal shortly after Labor Day.
Grassley said that bill would hold up better compared to proposals crafted in the House, which he asserted were "poorly cobbled together."
In addition to the town hall meetings, the president is continuing to call lawmakers to discuss the healthcare issue, and Gibbs said he expects the president will do the same even when he is on vacation at Martha's Vineyard at the end of the month.
— Michael O'Brien contributed to this story.
— This story was updated at 4:01 p.m.