- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

As “bleak” as the battle over health care reform currently seems for the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden predicted Thursday that Congress will pass a major bill in the end.

“As bleak as it looks, you know, always darkest before the dawn,” Mr. Biden said, following a speech at the liberal think tank the Brookings Institution. “The prospects of success are high, I think they are very high.”

The vice president took a handful of questions after speaking about President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, and grinned as the final question was about the looming political fight on Capitol Hill. Mr. Biden spent more than three decades in the Senate before joining Mr. Obama’s ticket as vice president last year.

Mr. Biden hinted the administration may not worry about earning support from Republicans, noting that “every” major health care change in the past, including Medicare, always “passed by a couple of votes.”

“We’re going to get something substantial. It’s going to be an awful lot of screaming and hollering before we get there, but I believe we’re going to get there,” he said.

The vice president deferred to Mr. Obama, who will address a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, saying he has learned “don’t step on your boss’s lines.” “Stay tuned,” he said.

The speech will offer in “understandable, clear terms” what Mr. Obama will “specifically” push for in the coming weeks as Congress continues negotiations. “The devil is in the details,” Mr. Biden said, but added he’s confident because the stakeholders — including doctors, hospitals and business owners — are on board, “with the notable exception of the insurance companies.”

He said the administration is seeking a “fundamental change in the status quo.”

He also talked about the portion of health care that does fall inside his portfolio - how it applies to the spending of the $787 billion economic stimulus plan. Mr. Biden said there was going to be a dramatic modernization of medical records under the plan and noted that stimulus dollars have gone to expand health clinics.

Before answering the health care question, Mr. Biden said he’s one of the administration’s point men on foreign policy because “it’s a lot less complicated, and that’s not a joke.”

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