POLITICS
08/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Durbin: Obama Needs To Step Up During Recess

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on Obama to get involved while Congress is in recess.

"I say this as a member of Congress who's been an observer: The president is in the driver's seat in August," Durbin told reporters Wednesday. "Congress is gone and scattered to the winds with personal family and constituent service. And the White House is still there, generating a message and activity. So I think the president will have a chance to tell the American people a little bit more about why this process is so important."

Progressive Obama supporters are beginning to worry that a public health care option is doomed. Democratic senators have begun voicing skepticism about the direction the debate is going.

But some liberal Democrats, like Senators John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, expressed reservations about concessions being made by Democrats to keep a few Republicans on board.

Mr. Rockefeller said he was unhappy that the legislation would end the Children's Health Insurance Program and could reduce the scope of benefits for 11 million children in the program.

Asked if he would support the bill, Mr. Rockefeller shot back a somber, stony look. "Can't you see the joy on my face?" he asked.

The president had wanted legislation before recess, but negotiations in the Senate have made it unlikely. And in the House, conservative Blue Dogs made a deal with leadership that there will not be a vote until after the break.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) has demanded that the deal made by the Senate Finance Committee be preserved when the bill goes to the full Congress.

"I also need commitments from Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, as well as the Administration, that the bipartisan agreements reached in the Finance Committee will survive in a final bill that goes to the president," the senator said in a statement.

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