A White House official described President Barack Obama as being in listening mode as he convenes his second healthcare policy workshop, adding that the more than 100 lawmakers, interest groups and everyday citizens in attendance would help shape the Obama administrations approach to mend the fractured healthcare system.
Melody Barnes, director of the White Houses Domestic Policy Council, called the meeting the first step towards getting healthcare reform done.
In remarks made to open the event, Obama pledged not to let special-interest groups derail the process. I want to be very clear at the outset that while everyone has a right to take part in this discussion, nobody has the right to take it over and dominate, he said. The status quo is the one option that is not on the table. The president again tied reform efforts to broader work to turn around the ailing economy. He said that rising healthcare costs have pushed up the number of bankruptcies and foreclosures across the country.
The summit comes the same day that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the senior Republican on the committee, sketched out a timetable to move a reform bill that includes a number of hearings in April before finalizing legislation in June and moving it to the Senate floor in July.