Wednesday's press conference didn't feature a ton of news. Obama seemed to back off his push to have both houses vote on reform before the August recess. In fact, he seemed to give himself an easy out, by suggesting he wouldn't sign legislation--before or after the August recess--if it needed more work in order to achieve his goals. But the administration had been telegraphing this for the last day or two anyway.
One statement did get my attention, though. It came in response to a question about how Congress should finance reform.
After suggesting that savings elsewhere in the health care system could cover two-thirds of the cost, Obama turned to the final third, which would have to come from new revenues:
What I've said is that there may be a number of different ways to raise money. I put forward what I thought was the best proposal, which was to limit the deductions, the itemized deductions, for the wealthiest Americans. People like myself could take the same percentage deduction that middle-class families do, and that would raise sufficient funds for that final one-third.
Now so far, we haven't seen any of the bills adopt that. There are other ideas that are out there. I continue to think my idea's the best one, but I'm not foreclosing some of these other ideas as the committees are working them through.The one commitment that I've been clear about is, I don't want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle-class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy. And so if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle-class families, I'm going to be opposed to that, because I think there are better ideas to do it.
The emphasis on "completely" and "primarily" is mine, because I think--although I'm not certain--that's the news. My recollection is that he's not qualified those statements before, at least not this way.
If I'm right, that could signal Obama's willingness to go along with a tax increase that touched some middle class families, as long as it wasn't too many of them or didn't impose much of a burden. A small cap on the exclusion for group health insurance or a tax on sugary drinks, two options that have come up in this debate, would both qualify for that criteria.
For the record, a communications staffer I consulted said I'm over-interepreting the statement. So consider this pure speculation. At least for now.
Update: Joe Klein noticed this too. Joe knows policy, so maybe this isn't so speculative.