By Michael O'Brien - 09/06/09 03:09 PM EDT
President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaFive things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary Republican senator expects Trump will 'embrace' GOP platform Frustration with White House builds in Hispanic caucus MORE will "draw some lines in the sand" on his priorities for healthcare reform, but issue no veto threats on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday.
Administration officials, making the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, pledged that the president will detail his health reform initiative during a speech before a joint session of Congress this week, but were coy as to whether Obama would continue to vocally back a public (government-run) option for consumers.
But the press secretary still promised greater detail.
"We prefer to outline the positive rather than the negative, but I'm sure he will draw some lines in the sand on that [healthcare]," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said that the public option, which has attracted vocal support on the left but has been met with skepticism by some centrists and most Republicans, is a "valuable component" of health insurance reform, but signaled that the president would likely not dictate whether the public option was essential to winning his signature.
Both Gibbs and White House senior adviser David Axelrod spoke of establishing "choice and competition" as the priorities for health reform, as well as furthering a healthcare "exchange."
Axelrod argued that the public option shouldn't consume the entirety of the debate over the health bill, though.
"He believes the public option is a good tool," he said during an appearance on NBC. "Now, it shouldn’t define the whole healthcare debate, however.”
"He certainly believes that a public option within this exchange would be important," he added.
The ambiguous signals about where the president will come down on the public option come as members of his own party's centrist and liberal flanks have asked for more details on Obama's plans on healthcare and the public option.
For his part, Gibbs promised greater clarity after Wednesday night's address.
"People will leave that speech knowing where he stands," he said. "And if it takes doing whatever to get healthcare done, the president is ready, willing and able to go do that."