White House officials said they had been forced to take the step by
Republicans amid an increasingly bitter debate over the plans.
Obama administration appears set on taking the politically dangerous
route of painting Republicans as health care obstructionists despite
polling showing widespread concern among Americans.
Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, told The New York Times
that the Republican leadership "has made a strategic decision that
defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for
their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that
Americans face every day".
Republicans respond that they are
simply opposing the trillion-dollar Democratic-drafted legislation and
that the vocal public concern underlines the validity of their stance.
campaigned on a promise of ushering in a new era of bipartisanship in
Washington but since he entered the White House in January Mr Obama has
struggled to win over Republicans.
Mr Obama's shift reflects the
political reality that there is little prospect of agreement between
Democrats and Republicans on the increasingly contentious issue of
health care reform, which has triggered angry protests at public
meetings across the country.
There are signs that any further
movement to accommodate Republicans could lead to a split on the Left
that would imperil reform. Recent moves to float the notion of
abandoning an optional government-sponsored insurance plan have been
met with fury on the Left, which is accusing Mr Obama of abandoning his
After spending several weeks protesting that there
was no plan for "death panels" to enforce euthanasia, the White House
is again on the defensive, this time over the government insurance
option. Over the summer, Mr Obama's personal popularity has plummeted,
along with public support for health care reform.
Democrats do, however, have the advantage of holding solid majorities
in the House of Representatives and Senate. The party's 60 to 40
advantage in the Senate, however, is offset by the absence of Robert
Byrd of West Virginia, 91, and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, 77, who
are both seriously ill and unable to vote. Democrats have to muster 60
votes to resist a Republican filibuster.
This means they need to
woo at least two from a tiny band of moderate Republicans while at the
same time preventing any conservative Democrats from defecting.
White House is furious with Senator Chuck Grassley, who had been
leading a small band of Republicans trying to broker a compromise bill,
after he refused to reject wild claims that were "death panels"
included in a draft bill on Capitol Hill.
Democrats have removed
the controversial clause about voluntary consultations to discuss
"end-of-life" care but the political damage had already been done.
White House is now advocating the setting up of non-profit insurance
co-operatives as an alternative to a public insurance plan.
however, have rejected this as a sleight of hand. "It doesn't matter
what you call it, they want to accompany something Republicans are
going to support a trillion-dollar-bill.