Key lawmakers urge Obama to scale down healthcare reform plans.

Media reports on the healthcare debate continue to paint a grim picture of the President’s reform push. The White House is being cast as beset by conflicting agendas in the House and Senate, and comments Sunday by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) are being interpreted as a signal that Senate moderates may in the end not be on the President’s side. A senator “counted on by Democrats in the healthcare debate showed signs of wavering,” says the AP (8/24, Daniel). ABC World News (8/23, story 3, 2:10, Harris), the only network newscast that aired Sunday, reported that the goal of “universal health coverage…seems as illusive as ever.” ABC’s Cochran added that on the issue of bipartisanship “the President appears to have intentionally sent conflicting signals. Fearful of losing liberals in the House, the White House says he wants an option for government-run insurance. Fearful of losing moderates in the Senate, the President signals he is willing to consider other options.”

USA Today (8/24, Fritze) says that “lawmakers said Sunday that…Obama must scale back ambitious plans to overhaul healthcare because ballooning budget deficits are undermining support for more comprehensive and costly legislation.” USA Today adds that “even Democrats in Congress said that whatever healthcare bill emerges this fall will have to cost less than the $1 trillion price tag contemplated earlier this year.” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said on CBS, “It’s going to have to be significantly less than what we’ve heard talked about. … We’ve got to have the deficit reduced as a result of this effort. That is absolutely imperative.”

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union (8/23, King), “Is it time for the President to hit the reset button” and back a more modest reform package, Sen. Lieberman answered, “In a word, yes. I give the President tremendous credit for taking on the healthcare problem,” but “he took it on at a very difficult time that was not of his making. In other words, we’re in a recession.” Later, Lieberman added, “I think it’s a real mistake to try to jam through the total healthcare reform plan that the public is either opposed to or of very, very passionate mixed minds about. It’s just not good for the system, frankly, it won’t be good for the Obama presidency.”

The New York Times (8/24, Berger, Henry) reports that “Lieberman’s comments could further complicate Democratic efforts to get a healthcare overhaul passed in Congress. They had been depending on the independent senator to support their efforts, even though he often aligns with Republicans.” AFP (8/24), the Washington Times (8/24, Lobianco), and the Wall Street Journal (8/24, A4, Fields, subscription required) also cover the story.

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