Policy-ish

Obama Talks Up Health; Senate Dems Change Subject

President Obama talks to Democratic senators at a party meeting in Washington, D.C. i i

hide captionPresident Obama presses his case to Democratic senators at a party meeting in Washington, D.C.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama talks to Democratic senators at a party meeting in Washington, D.C.

President Obama presses his case to Democratic senators at a party meeting in Washington, D.C.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

News flash: President Obama and Democrats in Congress still aren't on the same page when it comes to health care.

In his opening remarks at the Senate Democratic retreat in Washington today, Obama tried to create some excitement, a la his surprisingly lively chat with House Republicans last week.

Today, his fellow Democrats applauded politely enough. But it's going to take more than hand-clapping for them to answer his plea to "finish the job on health care... even though it's hard."

He urged them not to "lose sight of why we're here" and to worry less about holding on to their jobs and worry more about helping the American people keep theirs. He called on senators to "turn off CNN" (which was televising his session live), stop reading blogs (gasp!) and get out of the Washington "echo chamber" to talk to real people.

He pushed for more openness in future talks about health. He even gave a shout out to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus for trying to bring Republicans on board health overhaul early on, despite the loud, Monday-morning quarterbacking of that strategy by others.

After all that, you'd think health questions would come tumbling out of the assembled senators, right?

Wrong. The first two questions were about trade and bipartisanship. Obama tried to work health care back in a few times in his answers, but they weren't taking the bait.

Not even Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a well-known supporter of health overhaul with long-standing cred from his time on a key House health committee, asked about health care.

For their part, House Democrats appear to have banished health to the dog house, too.

To be fair, the president and the senators discussed many other important issues, like the economy, the budget, jobs, energy and bank regulations. But Obama's inability to publicly engage Congress on health care is another indication that overhaul is too politically toxic to touch right now.

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