- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A world-renowned clinic that President Obama held up as an example of good medicine said Monday that the American people would be “losers” under the House’s health care proposal, joining the growing chorus of critics the Obama administration is trying to fend off as the debate intensifies from Capitol Hill to Main Street.

Minnesota’s not-for-profit Mayo Clinic, which Mr. Obama has repeatedly hailed as offering top quality care at affordable costs, blasted the House Democrats’ version of the health care plan as lawmakers continue to grapple with several bills from each chamber and multiple committees.

The Mayo Clinic said there are some positive elements of the bill, but overall “the proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher quality, more affordable health care for patients.”

“In fact, it will do the opposite,” clinic officials said, because the proposals aren’t [R]patient-focused or results-oriented. “The real losers will be the citizens of the United States.”

All day, Republicans took aim at Mr. Obama’s weak spot as surveys showed that his poll numbers were slipping on the issue. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele charged that the president’s plan amounts to a “reckless experiment,” dubbing it “socialism.”

“He’s conducting a dangerous experiment with our health care,” Mr. Steele said at the National Press Club as the RNC started an ad campaign, which will run in Arkansas, Nevada and North Dakota using similar language.

In the Senate, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican considered key to grabbing some bipartisan support, warned that the House call to raise taxes on wealthier citizens and, therefore, some small businesses to fund the $1 trillion overhaul is a non-starter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, is floating an idea that could make proposed tax increases more palatable to the more fiscally conservative members of her party. She would like to limit income-tax increases to couples making more than $1 million a year and individuals making more than $500,000, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said Monday. The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee last week would increase taxes on couples making as little as $350,000 a year and individuals annually making as little as $280,000.

Mr. Obama is going all out to keep the national conversation focused on the need for reform and the political forces at play. He hit back at Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, for suggesting that health care should be the president’s “Waterloo.”

Without naming Mr. DeMint, Mr. Obama offered the Republican’s quote in a brief statement after a visit with health care providers at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.

“If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo, it will break him,” Mr. Obama said, quoting Mr. DeMint from a conference call last week with conservatives who oppose the health care plan.

“Think about that. This isn’t about me, this isn’t about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America’s families, breaking America’s businesses and breaking America’s economy,” Mr. Obama said Monday, on the six-month anniversary of his administration.

White House aides did not have a response to the criticism from the Mayo Clinic, which Republicans exploited. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, used his Twitter feed to spread the Mayo Clinic statement, adding: “They are right.”

An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that Mr. Obama’s approval rate on how he’s handling health care has slipped below 50 percent for the first time. The president’s overall popularity has dipped just slightly.

Mr. Obama said Monday during an interview on PBS’ “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” that he wasn’t worried about the polls because he thinks they’ve “held up under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”

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