Introducing a story on the latest effort pass health care reform on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez proclaimed: "This morning President Obama is putting health care reform on the fast-track, declaring that it's year-long journey must be completed in Congress quickly."
At the top of the show, co-host Harry Smith had similarly declared: "President Obama says the health care debate is over. He wants a reform bill on his desk in the next few weeks." A Headline on screen read: "Health Care Fast-Track."
White House correspondent Bill Plante reported on the so-called "fast-track" plan: "The President yesterday rejected Republican calls to start over, saying that it is time to make a decision on health care....he made it clear that he's willing to get this done with a legislative maneuver requiring no Republican support." At the end of his report, Plante acknowledged things weren't quite so simple: "this is by no means a done deal....Republicans united in opposition, Democrats wavering because of elections this fall."
Following Plante's report, Rodriguez interviewed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and challenged the notion that Democrats could pass the massive legislation so quickly: "a lot of people think that the President is dreaming if he thinks he's going to get this done as quickly as he hopes. When do you think we will see a bill on the President's desk?"
Sebelius responded by arguing: "I think the urgency...really deals with what's happening to the American people....We need to move ahead." Rodriguez again questioned the ability to push through the controversial bill: "I understand that you think it's urgent, but the fact remains that 52% of Americans don't support this, according to the latest poll. You have no Republican support. Even some Democrats are wavering on this. How will the President get all of the support that he needs to get this done?"
In part, Sebelius replied by attacking the GOP: "Republicans...are perfectly comfortable to let the practice go along that says insurance companies can lock people out if you have a pre-existing condition, or if your kid has a pre-existing condition, you shouldn't be in the insurance pool. And the President and the health reform measure says that's just wrong. We need to change those rules."
Rodriguez returned to her original question and continued to press the HHS secretary: "Let me go back to the beginning and try to get a quick prediction from you. Can you can give me a date or a time frame when you think this will be on the President's desk?"
Here is a full transcript of Plante's report:
HARRY SMITH: President Obama says the health care debate is over. He wants a reform bill on his desk in the next few weeks. Does he have the votes from fellow Democrats?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Health Care Fast-Track]
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: This morning President Obama is putting health care reform on the fast track, declaring that it's year-long journey must be completed in Congress quickly. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has the latest this morning. Good morning, Bill.
BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Maggie. The President yesterday rejected Republican calls to start over, saying that it is time to make a decision on health care.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Health Care Battle; President Wants Legislation On Desk In Weeks]
BARACK OBAMA: Not just for the past year, but for decades.
PLANTE: The President's plan includes some Republican ideas like grants for malpractice reform and expansion of health savings accounts. But he made it clear that he's willing to get this done with a legislative maneuver requiring no Republican support.
OBAMA: Reform has already passed the House with a majority. It has already passed the Senate with a supermajority of 60 votes. And now it deserves the same kind of up or down vote that was cast on welfare reform.
PLANTE: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell promised to make that an issue in November.
MITCH MCCONNELL: The administration and the majority are very arrogant about this.
PLANTE: Political analyst Reid Wilson agrees that the vote could hurt Democrats, but says that what they really need is an end to the health care battle.
REID WILSON [EDITOR, HOTLINE ON CALL]: The bottom line calculation, though, is that they just need to get this thing done and they just need to get it passed and that will be the best possible outcome for this, even though it's still not a very good one.
PLANTE: But this is by no means a done deal. There are a lot of Republicans and Democrats in the House, Republicans united in opposition, Democrats wavering because of elections this fall. The President will go out and start campaigning for this next week. Maggie.
RODRIGUEZ: Bill Plante at the White House this morning. Thank you, Bill.