How Obama Can Rally His Troops On Health Bill

Just what kind of speech will President Obama give in his State of the Union address tonight to get his stalled health overhaul effort back on track?

Should he choose a refined "We band of brothers" speech like the one delivered by Sir Henry V (Sir Lawrence Olivier here) on St. Crispin's Day?

Or better to capture the spirit of the rallying cry of Aragorn, delivered to the nervous troops at the Black Gate at the end of Return of the King: "Stand. Men of the West!"?

What about channeling Bluto's pep talk to his despondent Delta brothers in Animal House: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" (Warning: Adult language)

Or maybe it's time to get tough, like the salesman played by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: "Coffee's for closers only." (Warning: More adult language)

Whatever the president says, he's got a lot of uniting to do. It's not just Democrats and Republicans who don't trust each other at this point. The real mistrust is between Democrats in the House and their counterparts in the Senate.

Yesterday, an obviously frustrated House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, "Many of us believe the Senate process is broken."

That didn't sit too well with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "House leaders have been saying this about the Senate from the very beginning," Reid said. "I could give him a few comments how I feel about the House, but I'm not going to."

The good news for those who are still hoping for a sweeping health overhaul is that there are signs that House Democrats are coming around — slowly — to the realization that their best chance is to accept the bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve. House members hate several elements of that bill, starting with the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health plans.

After that bill becomes law, however, both the House and Senate could pass a separate bill, using a process known as "budget reconciliation," to enact changes they agree on. Budget reconciliation can't be filibustered in the Senate, so it only needs 51 votes, rather than 60, to pass.

House Whip James Clyburn said yesterday if the Senate can guarantee that it will take up a reconciliation bill, he thinks he can get the votes in the House for the Senate bill.

But the Senate so far seems a long way from being able to make that guarantee.

Our partners over at Kaiser Health News offer this helpful bit of recent history, to remind President Obama what he said in last year's speech, i.e. "Health care reform will not wait another year."

Does he still believe that? We'll find out tonight.

Come back here tomorrow and participate in a live chat with me and White House correspondent Scott Horsley at 1 p.m. as we dissect the health care message in President Obama's speech.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.