- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Democratic congressional leaders are coalescing around their last hope for salvaging President Obama’s sweeping health care overhaul — legislation that has produced growing angst among consumers in a new poll.

Their plan is to pass the Senate bill with some changes to accommodate House Democrats, senior Democratic aides said Monday. The procedural route — known as reconciliation — would allow a majority of 51 senators to amend their bill to address some of the major substantive concerns raised by the House. That would circumvent the need for a 60-vote majority to hold off Republican delaying tactics.

Leaders will present the idea to the rank and file this week, but it’s unclear whether they have enough votes to carry it out.

Last week’s victory by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts cost Democrats the 60th vote they need to maintain undisputed control of the Senate, jeopardizing the outcome of the health care bill just when Mr. Obama had brokered a final deal on most of the major issues.

The new strategy is as politically risky as it is bold. There is widespread support for Mr. Obama’s goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans while trying to slow costs. But polls show the public is deeply skeptical of the Democratic bills, and Republicans would certainly accuse Democrats of ignoring voters’ wishes.

Fears about Mr. Obama’s measure increased significantly in December, according to a new monthly poll out Tuesday from the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Nonetheless, people still think that Mr. Obama should address the issue as part of dealing with the nation’s economic slump, although the percentage of people who say that it’s very important for Mr. Obama to do so has slipped from 56 percent in the survey conducted in September, to 49.5 percent in this month’s report.

Among the poll’s other findings:

• 33 percent of respondents said they believed their access to care would be worse if a health care overhaul occurred, a jump from 25 percent in the poll released last month. Thirteen percent said they thought they would have better access to care in a remade system, about the same as last month.

• 30.5 percent said their personal finances would be worse under a health care overhaul, compared to 24.5 percent last month. 11.5 percent said their personal finances would improve, compared to 14 percent last month.

From combined dispatches

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