Published January 24, 2010
The White House is evaluating whether to take a breather on health care or try to push for passing legislation, but is not convinced Massachusetts voters were trying to block health insurance reform by voting last week to send Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday.
Gibbs said discussions are happening now on timing and whether it is now or in a few months after Congress works on job creation.
"We're working with leaders on Capitol Hill to try to figure out the best path forward," Gibbs told "Fox News Sunday." We don't know what that is quite yet ... The problems that existed in American health care that existed a year ago or a week ago continue today."
The Senate election Tuesday in Massachusetts gave Republicans the victory they needed to block the Democratic health care bill from passing the Senate as Brown becomes the critical 41st vote in procedural moves to end debate. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded she did not have enough votes in the House to pass a Senate version that already has made it through that chamber. Doing so would avoid bringing Brown into the equation.
Gibbs said that Brown may have campaigned on stopping the health care bill but that's not why voters elected him over Democrat Martha Coakley.
"More people voted to express their support for Barack Obama than to oppose him," Gibbs said.
"Seventy percent of the voters in Massachusetts wanted to work with Democrats on health care reform, only 28 percent want to stop health care reform from happening. ... If Republicans want to assume that the outcome of what happened in Massachusetts is a big endorsement of their policies when 40 percent are enthusiastic about them and 58 percent are angry about them, then I hope this misread that election as badly as anybody could," Gibbs said.
Obama adviser David Axelrod said voters want Republicans to work with Democrats to fix problems in the health care system, not to obstruct those efforts. He added that it would be politically foolish for lawmakers who supported the overhaul so far to walk away from it now.
But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said if Democrats try to jam through health care "then November 2010 will be a very good month for us."
The Massachusetts voters weren't talking about tactics, they weren't talking about communication strategy they were talking about policies that they disagree with," Cornyn said. "If the White House and the Democrats didn't get that message then I think they really missed the point on what happened in Massachusetts."