White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted on Tuesday that the president has been consistent in demanding that both moderates and progressives within the Democratic Party make policy sacrifices in an effort to pass comprehensive health care legislation.
Speaking to reporters hours after the president met with nearly the entire Democratic caucus, Gibbs said that Obama urged everyone to rally around the remaining components of reform, which, he noted, were historic in their own right.
"The president believes that whether you are on the left of the Democratic spectrum or the right of the Democratic spectrum in the Senate, or concerned about health care in this country, that there is plenty to like in this legislation," said Gibbs.
Asked if Obama is as demanding of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn), whose opposition to a public option and Medicare buy-in provision led to their removal, as he has been of progressives like Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), both staunch supporters of a public plan, Gibbs affirmatively replied: "Yes."
"The president was clear with members of the democratic caucus, including independents who caucus with the Democrats," he said.
Such a depiction of the legislative process would likely come as a surprise to liberals both in and outside of office, many of whom point to the various, watered-down versions of reform to which they agreed in hopes of winning Lieberman's vote. One of those liberals, former DNC Chair Howard Dean, said on Tuesday that the leadership had acquiesced too much to win moderate votes and called on the party to "kill the bill."
Asked about Dean's remarks, Gibbs declined to argue medicine with the doctor. But he "would argue policy with him."
"In 2004, Howard Dean as a candidate sought to build off an employer-based health care system in order to cover millions of Americans that currently lack coverage," said Gibbs. "There are two differences between what the president is doing in 2009 and what Howard Dean proposed in 2004. The first difference is we have an increase in the number of uninsured. The second biggest difference is... the bill is paid for, the bill reduces the deficit, the bill bends the cost curve, the bill adds insurance reforms."