(For a TAKE A LOOK on healthcare, click on [nN07323916])
* Polls show growing doubt about healthcare plans
* Obama says will consider dropping bipartisan push
* Senate Finance negotiators meet again
(Adds Baucus quote)
By John Whitesides and Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Aug 5 Despite polls showing growing
public doubts about his healthcare overhaul, U.S. President
Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday to get a reform bill through
Congress this year even without Republicans on board.
"I promise you, we will pass reform by the end of this year
because the American people need it," Obama said in Wakarusa,
Indiana, where he traveled to tout his economic initiatives.
"We're going to have to make it happen."
Obama's drive for healthcare reform, his top legislative
priority, has been attacked on all sides for its $1 trillion
cost and scope. Democrats have feuded over how to pay for it,
and Obama's popularity has slipped as the debate dragged on.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found 52
percent of voters disapprove of Obama's handling of healthcare
while 39 percent approve. That was a shift from 46 percent
approval against 42 percent disapproval in a July 1 survey.
Concerns about spending too much and adding to the deficit
appeared to fuel the change, with 72 percent saying they do not
believe Obama can overhaul healthcare without expanding the
No Republicans have backed the healthcare proposals under
consideration in Congress, and months of Senate Finance
Committee negotiations with three Republican senators have not
produced a deal. Obama said time was about up.
"I think at some point, sometime in September, we're just
going to have to make an assessment," Obama told MSNBC after
his appearance in Wakarusa, saying his priority was a plan that
reined in healthcare costs, improved care and regulated
Obama wants to expand insurance coverage to most of the 46
million uninsured Americans and make it harder for insurance
companies to prohibit coverage of those with pre-existing
"I would prefer Republicans working with us on that because
I think it's in the interest of everybody. That shouldn't be a
partisan issue," he said.
'A DELAY GAME'
Democratic Senator John Rockefeller told reporters he
suspects the three Republicans negotiating with Senate Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus -- Charles Grassley, Mike Enzi
and Olympia Snowe -- ultimately will reject a Democratic
healthcare reform plan.
"My own personal view is that those three Republicans won't
be there to vote for it, not in committee when it comes right
down to it," he said. "So this will evolve into three or four
months of a delay game, which is exactly what the Republicans
The Senate adjourns at the end of the week for a monthlong
summer recess, joining the House of Representatives, which
adjourned last week. Three House committees and one Senate
committee have passed versions of the healthcare bill, while
Senate Finance is still at work.
Baucus said other Democrats believed the party's
negotiators on Senate Finance should "keep working, be
bipartisan, but sometime in September we are going to have to
make a decision."
Advocates on both sides are preparing for a fierce public
relations battle this month. Baucus and Senator Chris Dodd of
the Health and Education Committee, the other panel to pass a
healthcare bill, held a briefing for Democratic senators on
Wednesday to get them acquainted with the proposals.
Obama sent a message to his grassroots supporters asking
them to get involved during the August break, contacting their
representatives and taking at least one action in support of
"The cost of inaction is simply too much for the people of
this nation to bear," he said in the message.
The six Finance Committee members trying to reach a
bipartisan deal -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- met
again on Wednesday and discussed a proposal for an independent
Medicare Commission to oversee the healthcare program for the
They were set to meet with Obama at the White House on
Thursday to discuss the status of talks, a congressional aide
Baucus told reporters the panel would make judgments about
Medicare payments while preserving an "appropriate" level of
congressional involvement in setting reimbursement rates.
"We're trying to strike the right balance and we did. I
think we came up with a pretty good resolution," he said.
(Additional reporting by David Alexander and Andy Sullivan;
Editing by David Alexander and Cynthia Osterman)