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Democrats remain sharply divided over what to do about the nation’s health care system and return to Congress this week without any clear plan or consensus on reform.
After a month of rowdy town meetings, the picture for health care reform remains as muddled as ever on Capitol Hill and few believe President Barack Obama’s attempt to rally support with a speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night will improve the situation.
"You’re looking at one screwed-up mess," a long time Democratic operative told Capitol Hill Blue over the weekend. "Democrats lack focus on the issue."
Republicans see the speech as a chance to sharpen their opposition messge to Obama’s health care reform agenda. Strong, organized attacks against the President’s proposals have scored with Americans and revitalized Republicans who see the issue as a chance to regain lost seats in Congress.
After a nearly 40-day recess that was anything but restful, House Democrats are returning to work Tuesday still unsettled over pending health-care legislation and sure only that the people have had their say.
They are in almost the exact position they were in when they left the Capitol in late July. Conservatives are still leery of supporting a government-funded, or public, insurance option. Freshman lawmakers from suburban districts remain fearful of increasing taxes for their wealthy constituents to pay for the new measure and await alternatives from moderate Senate Democrats. And progressives, who are demanding the most far-reaching reform since the Great Depression, are still threatening to bring down the legislation if it does not contain a robust version of the public option.
In the lead-up to President Obama’s critical Wednesday night address to a joint session of Congress, interviews with a cross section of about 15 House Democrats and half a dozen aides show that there is still overwhelming support for some overhaul of the health-care system. But the caucus remains deeply divided over the details of the more than 1,000-page measure and now faces a public that is more skeptical than when House committees began drafting the plan two months ago.