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White House Steers Clear of Comment on Health Bill Details

The White House on Tuesday sought to avoid direct comment on health care legislation shaping up in the Senate, hoping a policy of public non-interference will help staffers complete their work on legislation in the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs clung to a hands-off-Congress strategy in seeking to explain why he won’t discuss President Barack Obama’s refusal to reiterate his campaign pledge not to tax health care benefits. Gibbs explained that he does not want to draw “bright lines that cause people to leave the table.—Similarly, Gibbs declined to say whether the White House wants to run health care reform under reconciliation, a strategy that would greatly increase the odds of passage. Obama wants to leave the matter up to Congress, Gibbs said, and has “confidence in the system working.—Gibbs also sought to explain the frustration that Obama expressed last week with Congressional Budget Office scoring of the health bill. Gibbs said it was not impatience with CBO itself, but rather unhappiness that CBO’s mission does not allow it to incorporate certain health system savings that Obama believes would eventually save on government spending and reduce the cost of the legislation.“There’s a broadness to what we’re trying to do on health care policy that is not scored by CBO because that’s not what CBO does,— Gibbs said.Obama on Wednesday will host a town hall meeting on health care from Annandale, Va., where he will take questions from the audience and also from others over the Internet.