Off Balance


The White House began to step away from its March 18 deadline for passing the latest reform configuration. Is it a feint designed to throw the opposition off balance, or are they realizing that its not going to happen next week?

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday backed off the March 18 deadline for a House vote on a health care bill that he had set last week and repeated this week.

The President is schedule to leave town for a week on Thursday, so that seemed like a good target for getting health care finished, once and for all, so the president could move on and try to salvage something of his presidency.

But Gibbs also did not directly answer questions about whether President Obama will delay, by a day or two, his trip to southeast Asia. He is scheduled to leave on the 18th for the week-long trip.

“Our hope is to get this done as soon as possible. If it takes a couple extra days after a year, it takes a couple of extra days,” Gibbs said, when asked about the 18th.

For Democrats, eager to put Obama’s lost year behind them and try to salvage their political careers, a few more days might be a torture they can’t absorb. To make matters worse, the president is dangling a bigger electoral disaster than health care in front of them.

A pair of senators trying to put together a comprehensive immigration bill showed their outline to President Barack Obama Thursday and asked his help in recruiting additional Senate backers. But with a full plate already and elections looming, it was unclear how involved the White House plans to get on the issue.

Earlier in the day, the president also met with frustrated immigration activists, who pressed him to more publicly press the case.

The president’s pursuit of immigration reform on the heels of the health reform debacle would likely sink the Democrats for many years to come.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina presented their legislative plan in an Oval Office meeting, but Mr. Graham does not want to introduce formal legislation without at least one other Republican co-sponsor. And finding another Republican to sign onto the politically perilous legislation has been difficult. Several Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, supported the measure when it was debated during President George W. Bush’s second term, but they have been reluctant to sign on now.


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