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Aide: President Has a Plan’ for Completing Health Reform

President Barack Obama “expects— lawmakers to enact the major elements of his health reform proposal, a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday, and he will deliver his plans to them Wednesday night in what aides describe as a “straightforward— and comprehensive manner.

“The president has a plan, he believes it’s the right plan, he wants the Congress to pass the plan and he expects the Congress will pass the plan,— the administration official said. “Will it chapter and verse in every particular mirror exactly what he’s said? Well, let’s see — we hope that’s the case. Will it conform to it in its major elements? I believe that it will.—

Obama has been criticized by some for not offering more details and insisting that Congress pass them. But while the official said Obama “expects— Congress to act on his proposal, it is still unclear how aggressively he will insist on it.

The aide said part of the president’s intention with the speech is to prod Congress to head into the homestretch. He suggested just the prospect of the speech has already “borne dividends— by spurring activity in Congress, pointing to moves in the Senate Finance Committee during the past week to put an end to months of negotiations.

The White House insists that its effort was not harmed by protests during town hall meetings during the August recess. But the official acknowledged that the long-planned “major address— by Obama on health care was bumped up on the calendar to Wednesday night.

The official brushed off suggestions that there was too much concern in the White House about avoiding former President Bill Clinton’s strategy of presenting Congress with a blueprint for action and that a recitation of Obama’s specific requirements should have come earlier.

“We’ve gotten farther than anyone ever has, and the reason we have is because of the strategy that we embraced,— he said. “It is the biggest rhetorical arrow in his quiver, and this is the time he feels it’s important to fire it because we’re entering the final acts of the play,— he said. After an “exhaustive debate,— he continued, “Now it’s time to draw the strands together that make sense and say to the American people and say to the Congress — here’s the plan I believe we should embrace and let’s move forward and get it done.—

Officials emphasized that there are Republican proposals in the Obama plan, pointing to the creation of a high-risk pool for catastrophic expense, something that had been pushed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). And while Obama will continue to profess openness to bringing Republicans on board, the official made clear that the president is willing to move a Democratic bill.

“That not everyone is not willing to come with us is not an excuse to fail,— he said.

Obama aides also considered an Oval Office address, but decided that the president could take more time to explain his views in a speech to Congress and that it was important to directly address lawmakers to try to sway their views.

One new proposal in the speech would create “demonstration— medical malpractice reform initiatives in several states, the senior official said.

The official dismissed a suggestion that Obama should try to gain GOP support by introducing more aggressive malpractice reform steps than Obama is set to announce, saying it “could be an impediment,— charging that at this point and it wouldn’t influence Republican leaders — whom he accused of deciding for political reasons to oppose Obama’s initiative.

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