From the White House, yesterday afternoon:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 16, 2009
Readout of the President’s meetings today with Senator Rockefeller and with Senators Bennett and Wyden
"The President had constructive meetings today with Senator Rockefeller and with Senators Bennett and Wyden in the Oval Office. These meetings underscore the President's continued commitment to working with senators on both sides of the aisle to pass health insurance reform this year."
Rockefeller's visit has already gotten some coverage. Neither his people nor the administration's are talking about the meeting, but you can safely assume that Rockefeller gave his list of objections--and got some sense of where, and to what extent, they might be addressed. (My bet: There's room to improve the Senate Finance bill's affordability provisions; the hard part will be finding the money, paritcluarly since one of Rockefeller's other big objections is to the indirect tax on generous health plans.)
Wyden's agenda is really a two-fer. He shares Rockefeller's worry about affordability. (That's one reason I think it will be addressed; most of the Democrats have serious concerns on this front.) He is also pushing his "Free Choice Proposal," which would eventually open up insurance exchanges to everybody--and preserve one of the signature elements of his "Healthy Americans Act."
That bill, of course, has as its co-sponsor Republican Bob Bennett, the other White House guest. Could Bennett break ranks and vote for reform? Probably not. He's gotten tremendous pressure from his right wing; he's said very clearly he's opposed to the Obama plan. Still, funny things happen when it's actually time to cast meaningful votes. People start thinking about historical legacies, that sort of thing. And because of his work with Wyden, Bennett has a lot invested in reform, more than almost anybody else in his party. Like I said, it's intriguing.