TIME’s Sophia Yan files this report:
On the morning of President Obama’s bipartisan health care summit, a new poll finds 52% of voters oppose the current proposal and 59% of voters prefer to simply start over, according to a survey by Public Opinion Strategies and the Center for Health Transformation. Half of those polled would rather maintain the status quo than pass the proposal by Obama and Congress, which marks a shift from last fall when most said it was still better to pass this plan than keep the current health care system, according to several NBC/WSJ polls.
“The turning point was December,” Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies told TIME. “The [public] watched deals — hundreds of millions of dollars for private deals for the special interests of some members of Congress.” The way such deals, like Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson’s cornhusker kickback, “have been handled has worked to reduce support,” he says.
Though these numbers are disheartening for an administration that’s spent a year on this issue, the final bell has not yet tolled: 62% say total overhaul is still needed. “People still want substantial change in health care,” said McInturff at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters this morning. “They’ve just decided that the current plan is too much and goes too far.” Although affordable health care tops the priority list for Republicans, Democrats and independents, a strong common bipartisan thread remains hard to trace. And considerations that do not meet eye-to-eye mean “the President today has an unenviable job,” McInturff said.
As Washington’s most tossed-around hot coal, health care reform will rock the 2010 elections. “Democrats know that they’re going to lose some large chunk of seats in 2010,” McInturff says. Right now, the challenge is how to position the party to pay the least penalty, rather than the maximum when election season rolls around.
What failed to work is that Obama did not “always understand leaders are remarkably limited by the scale of the country,” like FDR did, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told TIME. “ You can’t go beyond a certain pace.” By pushing too far, things had “managed to implode.”
Does the botched health care reform process mean that the 111th Congress is more dysfunctional than past sessions? “The technique the [founding fathers] designed was to make the machine so inefficient that no dictator could force it to work,” chuckled Gingrich. With a “huge idea the country increasingly opposes,” like the current health care legislation, lawmakers should not be able to “ram it through despite the country,” he said at the breakfast.
So what needs to happen now? “Slow down the tempo and not let people dance away from it,” said Gingrich.