Full in-box awaits President Obama

Sept. 1, 2009 at 12:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Healthcare, climate change, U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan and the situation in the Middle East await President Barack Obama after his vacation ends.

But healthcare reform is the key issue because Republicans used the August recess to rally opposition to the Democrats' proposals during numerous town hall meetings, Politico reported.

The White House addressed what observers say is the fading hope for a bipartisan Senate healthcare bill after two of three GOP senators involved in Senate Finance Committee negotiations signaled their displeasure with Obama's proposals, the Washington publication said.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, in a letter published Monday, appealed to supporters to "help me defeat 'Obamacare'" while Mike Enzi of Wyoming used a radio address on healthcare to repeat Republican arguments against the plan. Spokesmen for both Republican senators said they're committed to the bipartisan talks.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, however, criticized Enzi's comments during a media briefing Monday.

Gibbs said the radio commentary indicates Enzi "doesn't believe there's a pathway to get bipartisan support, and the president thinks that's wrong."

Most analysts in Washington told Politico they think Obama missed the chance to get a bill passed before the break so he must use all power of the presidency to get his proposal back on track, Politico said.

"He still has time -- but not much time," Republican strategist Mary Matalin said. "Those cement shoes are starting to harden around him."

To regain control and change momentum, analysts said, Obama must dominate in three areas: messaging, media and muscle.

"If there's a way to refocus attention on the overarching goals, that's what he's got to do," said Ken Thorpe, co-director of the Center on Health Outcomes and Quality at Emory University in Atlanta.

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