Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time for Obama to take charge

By Bill Press The Hill's Pundit Blog

Congress won’t be back in town for another week or so, but talks between the House and Senate on healthcare reform legislation are already under way. And the big question is: What role should President Barack Obama play in the final negotiations?

I think it’s clear: This is the time for Obama to play a big role. It’s up to him whether we get historic healthcare reform — or a mediocre down payment.

In order to deliver on healthcare, there are three things Obama needs to do. First, he has to remember who’s in charge. He is. Not Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson.

Second, he has to remember who got him where he is. Not the insurance companies, but the American people. And they’re the ones he ought to be fighting for.

Third, he’s got to push House and Senate conferees for the strongest healthcare reform bill possible. And there’s only one way to do that: for the president himself to take an active, hands-on leadership role. Invite the conferees to the White House. Lead the negotiations himself. After all, it’s hard to say no to the president of the United States.

And, finally, delivering on a campaign promise, he should invite C-SPAN in to carry the final negotiations live — so all the American people can see what deals are being made and who’s standing in the way.

The fight for a strong healthcare bill is not over yet. The fight for a public plan option is not over yet. But it’s up to Barack Obama alone whether or not we ever get there.