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Dems Laud Obama's Speech As Health Care Breakthrough--But To What Avail? (Video)

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I asked House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) whether Obama had helped ease the gridlock.

"Four different occasions tonight the President says, 'I'm calling upon the Senate to act on what the House has done,'" Clyburn said.

Did the President make your job on health care easier?

"It's in the Senate's court," Clyburn insisted. "These things that the President talked about tonight, 90 percent of them have already been done by the House. So I don't have a job to do. He made that very clear."

But his colleagues in the other chamber have the exact opposite view.

"At this point I think the ball is in the House's court on health care," Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) told me. "They have to decide whether to accept the Senate bill. If they don't then that complicates matters over here.... The problem at this point is how to get the votes in the House."

Bayh and others said that the President couldn't have undone what he referred to as the "gordian knot" tying up health care reform--but that his insistence that they regain composure and finish the job will go a long way toward getting legislators to act.

"I believe it will bring them together," Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told me. "We have two bills--one is better than the other--but there is good parts in both and there's no reason on earth that we can't make that turn out alright."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) had a somewhat different take. He said that the gridlock on all issues will continue until Republicans adopt a new posture.

"The only thing that's ultimately going to break the gridlock is for the Republicans to conclude that it's not in their political interest to be the party of obstruction and distortion," Whitehouse said. "And when that happens things will start to move."

Was Obama's message to Republicans tonight effective in that regard?

"I think it helped."

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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