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Gibbs: “I have not heard of any specific calls that the President has made”

A lot of news outlets are pointing to Robert Gibbs’ comments on Joe Lieberman today, but I want to start with his comments on the President’s involvement:

Q: Hey, Robert, some of the moderates in the Senate — moderate Democrats — are really balking at the health care plan that Senator Reid announced.  What’s the President going to do to try to help him line up the support he’ll need to get that through the Senate?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously right now, I mean, the President is working to ensure we get this through.  I don’t — I have not heard of any specific calls that the President has made, and obviously Senator Reid is working this through the caucus.  But I’m sure we’ll get involved in due time.

I would say now is the due time. Harry Reid said yesterday that he had not asked Obama to make any calls yet, but now that the legislation has been at least partially unveiled, and Republicans are in all likelihood unanimously opposed, it’s time for Presidential leadership. And especially when two of the most likely defectors in the caucus hold committee chairmanships – Lieberman at Homeland Security, Blanche Lincoln at Agriculture – there is substantial arm-twisting and pot-sweetening that a President can do to make sure cloture gets invoked.

Gibbs maintained that the President has been involved to this point and will continue to do so. But this really is a time for bolder leadership from the head of the Party.

As for his comments on Lieberman:

Q: Politico is reporting that Joe Lieberman is saying he’ll join Republicans on a filibuster.  Is Obama confident he can get the Democrats to beat back a filibuster in the Senate?
MR. GIBBS:  I haven’t seen the report from Senator Lieberman or why he’s saying what he’s saying.  I think Democrats and Republicans alike will be held accountable by their constituents who want to see health care reform enacted this year.  We see it in the polling that you guys do every day that they want the system, as it is now, to be fixed to ensure accessibility for those that don’t have it, for cutting costs for those who do, and for important insurance reforms like preexisting conditions to be addressed.  And we know that if that doesn’t happen, people say they’ll be very disappointed by that, and we think people will make progress to ensure that this gets done.

What about Connecticut for Liebermans?

I think the accountability moment needs to come before the next election. It needs to come from the Oval Office.

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David Dayen

David Dayen