Health care, in the end, might have gotten pushed aside — except that one very senior official in the administration kept insisting that it stay on the agenda. That official was Obama himself. Repeatedly, the president made clear that he was not abandoning health care reform.
....By the end, the debate had coalesced around three options: investing around $1 trillion over ten years, offset by new revenue and some substantial reductions in Medicare and Medicaid spending; investing a slightly lower amount, in the neighborhood of $600 billion, which could be offset by more modest revenue increases and reductions in Medicare and Medicaid; or putting aside just $300 billion, offset mostly by changes to Medicare and Medicaid. A final decision wasn't made until Friday, February 13, as a deadline for setting the budget loomed. Rejecting the $1 trillion proposal, because the offsets it required seemed too severe, Obama went with the $600 billion option — $634 billion, to be precise.
This seems to be typical Obama: he really does know what he wants, and he really does insist on getting it. At the same time, as long as things are moving in the right direction, he seems profoundly willing to compromise about how fast he gets there. I haven't quite figured out yet whether I think this is good or bad, but it's what we've got. We may have a liberal in the White House, but we don't have one who's temperamentally likely to knock heads and try to make history.