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Obama Speech to Hit on Familiar Themes

When President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, he will try to resuscitate a health care reform effort that’s been badly bruised and battered over the August recess.But according to talking points being circulated in the Senate by the White House in advance of Obama’s prime-time speech, at least some of the president’s message will remain the same: Obama will frame the health care debate as one that pits those who want to improve the system against those who support the status quo.“The speech will make clear what health insurance reform means,— reads one of the memo’s bullet points. Another bullet point reads: “After this speech, opponents of health reform will either need to propose their own plan, or explain why they think it’s best to do nothing while premiums crush American families and thousands lose their coverage everyday.—Obama is expected to use the speech to more specifically define his principles for reform. However, it remains unclear if he will throw down the gauntlet on some of the more contentious issues that have divided the Congress, including whether any overhaul should include a public insurance option to compete with private insurers.The talking points suggest that Obama will tout the progress the House and Senate have made on the issue so far, despite the fact that neither chamber has passed a measure amid intra and interparty objections. And the president might also look to downplay the significance of recent town hall meetings across the country in which some Members encountered angry crowds and protests.“It is important to recognize how far we have come,— reads one of the memo’s bullet points. “Four out of Five House and Senate committees have marked up bills. There is basically 80 percent agreement among those bills and all of them are in line with the principles laid out by the president at the beginning of this debate.—“We are entering a new phase in the debate, Congress is coming back from recess,— says the next bullet point. “While cable news may have replayed over and over a few the protests that took place over August, Members of Congress also heard from Americans who are struggling with high costs and the insecurity of knowing they might lose their coverage. Thousands of conversations have taken place at kitchen tables around the country. It is pretty clear here in Washington that inaction is not an option.—

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