White House hints Obama will offer defense of reconciliation strategy

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAbrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda  The root of Joe Biden's troubles MORE this week will defend a controversial legislative maneuver to pass healthcare reform, the White House hinted Monday.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama will make an announcement, likely on Wednesday, that will deal with “both process and policy” on healthcare reform.


Gibbs and other top White House aides have been hinting for days that Obama will back the use of budget reconciliation rules on healthcare reform. The rules would allow the Senate to pass aspects of healthcare reform related to the federal budget with 51 votes instead of the 60 necessary to defeat a filibuster.

Democrats are contemplating having the House approve the Senate-passed version of the healthcare reform. The House would then pass a separate piece of legislation that would make fixes to Senate healthcare bill. The Senate would also pass the package of fixes, but under budget reconciliation rules.

The White House has been signaling it can support budget reconciliation rules for days, beginning in the lead-up to last week's bipartisan healthcare summit at the Blair House.

During that meeting, the president deflected questions from Republicans about the use of reconciliation to pass aspects of healthcare reform, but he did make clear that he wants to see “an up-or-down vote.”

Gibbs repeated that assertion Monday, saying that Obama “believes an up-or-down vote is necessary,” but that he does not necessarily see reconciliation is inevitable.

“Republicans could decide not to filibuster, and that would be one way (to approve healthcare legislation),” Gibbs said.

Gibbs declined to offer any sense of what Obama might say this week other than that he will lay out what he sees as the way forward for healthcare.

“What he discusses will point toward not just a policy, but a process moving forward,” Gibbs said. He added: “I think you'll have a good idea of how we would proceed.”