White House Firm On Health Reform Timeline, Sends Mixed Abortion Messages

Roll Call: "Even as Senate Democrats continue to grope for a way forward on health care, the White House asserted Monday that its Dec. 31 deadline for final passage of the legislation is solid. 'When we say the end of the year, we've got a pretty firm end-of-the-year deadline,' White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said." Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid implied that the legislation may lag beyond that time frame, but clarified his statement later to be in line with the president (Koffler, 11/9).

"Gibbs said millions of uninsured and under-insured Americans are counting on Congress to pass meaningful health insurance reform," KOLR TV 10, a CBS affiliate in Arkansas, reports. "However, the issue faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, which is more moderate than the House. Things also tend to move much more slowly in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to move key issues forward" (11/9).

Meanwhile, President Obama has offered a less solid position on one key controversy that threatens to delay the Senate vote, The Hill reports. Asked whether the administration supports a House amendment that would ban indirect public spending on abortions through insurance subsidies, Gibbs said, "Well, ask me that right before Christmas and the end of the New Year," meaning, after the White House hopes the President will have signed a bill.

Obama also spoke to ABC News about the issue, saying the abortion compromise would take some more ironing out. "[W]e're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions," Obama said, adding: "what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."  But, he said, "This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill" (Tapper, Travers, Miller and Dwyer, 11/9).

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