President Barack Obama, faced with falling approval ratings and increasingly impatient with Senate negotiations over health care, is weighing a shift in strategy that would offer more details of his goals for overhauling the nation's healthcare system.
The president is considering a speech in the next week or so in which he would be "more prescriptive" about what he feels Congress must include in a bill, top adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday in an interview. The speech might occur before the Sept. 15 deadline the White House gave to Senate negotiators to seek a bipartisan bill, Axelrod said. He suggested that two key Republicans have not bargained in good faith.
Congress reconvenes next Tuesday after an August recess in which critics of Obama's health proposals dominated many public forums.
Some Obama allies, watching his approval ratings tumble in polls along with support for a healthcare overhaul, have urged the president to take a more hands-on approach. They feel he gave too much leeway to Congress, where one bill has passed three House committees, another has passed a Senate committee and a third has been bogged down in protracted negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee.
Axelrod indicated that Obama would not offer new proposals but would be more specific about his top priorities.
"The ideas are all there on the table," Axelrod said. "Now we are in a new phase, and it's time to pull the strands of these together."
He said there is serious discussion in the White House of Obama "giving a speech that lays out in specific ways what he thinks" about the essential elements of a healthcare bill.
Axelrod said it was possible that the speech could occur before a planned Sept. 15 Obama address on healthcare in Pittsburgh.
Obama has called for innovations such as a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers, but he has not insisted on it. It was not clear Tuesday the degree to which he might press for various proposals in a new speech.
Obama also plans to meet with Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday.