Despite clear progress, media declare health care reform nearing "life support"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Despite passage of health care reform bills in House and Senate committees and the endorsement by major medical organizations of congressional Democrats' reform efforts, numerous television pundits have suggested that President Obama's health care plan is in serious jeopardy.

As The Washington Post observed in a July 20 article: "Cable news programs repeatedly declare the president's health care program is teetering or embattled despite a week in which [President] Obama's proposals were endorsed by the doctor and nurses associations and committees in both legislative chambers passed major bills." Indeed, despite passage of health care reform bills by the House Ways and Means Committee, House Education and Labor Committee, and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and endorsements of congressional Democrats' reform efforts by the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, numerous television pundits have suggested in recent days that Obama's health care plan is in serious jeopardy.

For instance:

  • On the July 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host David Gregory stated: "Sunday: it's do or die for the president's massive health care reform." Later, Gregory asked Newsweek senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, "[T]ake this on. I mean, the conventional wisdom here is that he's on the ropes here on health care. Is that overstated?" Wolffe replied, "No, I think it's a challenge. And the longer it goes on ... delay has always killed health care. So the longer this delays, the worse [Obama's] authority gets."
  • On the July 19 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Don Lemon asked: "[I]s President Barack Obama's health care plan dead in the water?"
  • On the July 19 edition of CNN's State of the Union, host John King, referring to July 16 testimony by Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf, said that "the Obama health care plan hits an enormous speed bump." Later, CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin asserted of health care reform, "the White House is feeling really nervous right now. I mean, they know that this thing is a mess."
  • On the July 19 edition of CNN Sunday Morning, CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry said that Obama's "abrupt" decision to give a speech on health care on July 17 raises "questions about whether his health care push may be unraveling."
  • On the July 18 edition of Fox News Watch, Fox News vice president of news and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon said: "I think in recent days the press is coming around to the mounting evidence that this bill is in trouble."
  • On the July 17 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN correspondent Dana Bash said that the president is "trying to change a rapidly spreading story line that his health care plan is in trouble."
  • During the 4 p.m. ET hour of the July 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer said that Obama was making "a Hail Mary pass on health care. ... He's scrambling to keep his hopes for an overhaul alive as concerns about costs rise." Also during that segment, CNN Correspondent Dan Lothian said that Obama's speech on health care that day was "perhaps ... in response to some of the growing concerns that this health care reform ship up on Capitol Hill is sinking." Later, Bash said that "in the last 24 hours, the perception is that health care is in trouble. So the president is going to try to turn that perception around."
  • During the 6 p.m. ET hour of the July 17 edition of The Situation Room, Blitzer stated: "President Obama stepping up his efforts to fight for reform. But is his plan in serious peril?" Blitzer later added, "Each blip of criticism pushes the chances for health care reform further toward life support. Right now, the president is desperate to keep his plans alive. But could health care reform be facing serious peril?"
  • On the July 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report, when asked by host Bret Baier whether he agrees with Fortune Washington editor Nina Easton that there's a "good chance" Democrats will be able to pass health care reform 'through the skin of their teeth," Fox News contributor and NPR correspondent Juan Williams replied, "at the moment, no, people on the Hill are saying to me, especially in the Senate, it doesn't look good."

From the July 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

GREGORY: This Sunday, it's do or die for the president's massive health care reform.

OBAMA [video clip]: We have finally reached the point where inaction is no longer an option; where the choice to defer reform is nothing more than a decision to defend the status quo. And I will not defend the status quo.

GREGORY: But the toughest obstacles remain over taxes, coverage and overall cost. Will the president's August deadline be met, and what will the final bills look like? With us, the administration's point person on health care, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Then, the view from the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell. Will health care reform be bipartisan? And why is he preparing to vote against the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court?

[...]

GREGORY: Richard Wolffe, take this on. I mean, the conventional wisdom here is that he's on the ropes here on health care. Is that overstated?

WOLFFE: No, I think it's a challenge. And the longer it goes on -- [Wall Street Journal editorial page editor] Paul [Gigot] is right, not about the polls, but about delay has always killed health care. So the longer this delays, the worse his authority gets. But he is going to try and step this up now.

From the July 19 edition of CNN Newsroom:

CEMETERY LAWYER: There was not a situation where bones simply littered the cemetery.

LEMON: But police investigators just aren't buying it. Plus, is President Barack Obama's health care plan dead in the water? His big push could dominate the news this week.

From the July 19 edition of CNN's State of the Union with John King:

KING: I'm John King. This is State of the Union. The unemployment rate keeps climbing, despite the president's bold stimulus promise.

OBAMA [video clip]: We intend to help save or create 2.5 million jobs.

KING: And the Obama health care plan hits an enormous speed bump.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): The bill will actually increase cost in our health care system.

[...]

YELLIN: And the White House -- yes, the White House is feeling really nervous right now. I mean, they know that this thing is a mess. And the president doesn't want to commit to any one of these plans yet because he wants it to -- get it worked out through Congress. But there's a lot of frustration that he's not showing enough leadership by laying down markers and giving in.

From the July 19 edition of CNN Sunday Morning:

BETTY NGUYEN (anchor): Well, Republicans and some Democrats in Washington are expressing concerns over whether health care reform can actually happen. But President Obama wants health care reform legislation passed this year. And as White House correspondent Ed Henry reports, the president plans to turn up the pressure on Congress.

HENRY [voiceover]: An abrupt add to the president's schedule late on a Friday, raising questions about whether his health care push may be unraveling. But Mr. Obama insisted otherwise.

From the July 18 edition of Fox News Watch:

SCOTT: Bill, should we be writing these promises down so that if, in fact, this thing gets passed, we can all say, "Hey, the president told me I could keep my health care if I like it"?

SAMMON: Absolutely. You know, I think the press, by and large, supports this measure and is sympathetic to the president.

SCOTT: Does the press know what this measure is?

SAMMON: Well, I was just going to say, in fairness, I think in recent days the press is coming around to the mounting evidence that this bill is in trouble, and I think as much as the press would like to see it pass, they also can't resist a good story where Democrats are fighting among themselves over how to pay for this, the deficit is quadrupling, you know, the clock is ticking before the August recess. And so I think the journalists are starting to cover this as a legit -- in a good way.

From the July 17 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

BASH [voiceover]: Damage control in the form of a pep talk.

OBAMA: I wanted everybody to just step back for a moment and look at the unprecedented progress that we've already made on reform.

BASH: The president trying to change a rapidly spreading story line that his health care plan is in trouble.

From the July 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Plus, a Hail Mary pass on health care. We're standing by to hear live this hour from President Obama. He's scrambling to keep his hopes for an overhaul alive as concerns about costs rise.

[...]

LOTHIAN: But again, just to give you a little sense of the -- what's been going on behind the scenes here, initially the president was not scheduled to make any remarks -- public remarks today. He was just doing a lot of sort of lobbying and behind-the-scenes negotiations on health care here at the White House, but there was nothing on his schedule at all until late this afternoon, when we got word -- after many rumors that were circulating around -- we got word that indeed the president would be coming out at 3:15 and making some remarks on health care, perhaps in a reaction -- a response to some of the growing concerns that this health care reform ship up on Capitol Hill is sinking.

[...]

BASH: So, what I'm told by congressional sources here -- Democratic sources -- is that the reason the president is coming out is to try to give a pep talk. And he's probably going to say in some variation, maybe multiple times, there is momentum, there is progress.

You know, as you well know, with a lot of these things, a lot of these issues, it's about perception. And right now, in the last 24 hours, the perception is that health care is in trouble. So the president is going to try to turn that perception around, and that is with the prodding, and, frankly, some pleading by Democratic leaders here in Congress.

[...]

BLITZER: You're in The Situation Room. Happening now: health care push. President Obama stepping up his efforts to fight for reform. But is his plan in serious peril?

[...]

BLITZER: Each blip of criticism pushes the chances for health care reform further toward life support. Right now, the president is desperate to keep his plans alive. But could health care reform be facing serious peril? There are pointed criticisms from Republicans -- even pleadings from some Democrats.

From the July 17 of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

EASTON: But I do think that they will probably squeeze this through both houses, get it into conference and go from there. Just like cap-and-trade; they just squeezed it through the House. And I think there's a good chance they'll just be able to, like -- through the skin of their teeth. It's not going to be bipartisan or broad support, but I think they'll --

BAIER: Do you agree?

WILLIAMS: I would have agreed, you know, and I think that the American people still want something to happen. But at the moment, no, people on the Hill are saying to me, especially in the Senate, it doesn't look good.

BAIER: Steve?

STEPHEN HAYES (Weekly Standard senior writer): Yeah, I think they're in trouble. The president said, don't slow down. Well, that's what we heard before the stimulus package. I think people are rightly curious and skeptical of that argument.

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