By Sam Youngman - 09/16/09 07:42 PM EDT
Despite months of anticipation, the White House on Wednesday stopped well
short of endorsing Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) healthcare bill.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the release of Baucus's Senate Finance Committee healthcare legislation — the last of five committees to unveil a proposal — moved the legislative process along, but President Barack Obama still thinks the bill will change.
The White House expects that "there will be a continued legislative process that will tweak and change legislation, as there always is."
"I don't think the president looks at today as the end," Gibbs said. "I think Republicans, certainly, on the committee will offer amendments to change the bill."
Despite the fierce criticism from Republicans, who say Baucus's bill will raise taxes on the middle class, Gibbs said Obama remains hopeful that some Republicans will come to support reform legislation.
"We hope in the end that they'll hear what their constituents are saying about the need to address the skyrocketing costs of healthcare reform," Gibbs said.
Gibbs disputed the belief espoused by some Democrats that Baucus's attempts to get a bipartisan bill, which put the White House well past its August deadline for bills to pass the Senate and House, were a waste of time.
"I don't think the president looks back and thinks we should have done things differently. This is all part of the long process," Gibbs said. "And I don't think that Sen. Baucus or President Obama or others asking Republicans to be involved, to give us their ideas, is time poorly spent at all. I think the American people want to hear both sides' ideas on this.