President Obama's cutting response to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has made headlines today after the president spoke at Children's Hospital in Washington, DC, but what's equally (if not more) significant is that the oft-mentioned August deadline for health care reform was noticeably absent from his speech.
Obama has said, many times, that a bill must get passed by August--the month Congress takes off every year for members to return to their home states and districts. This year, the House is scheduled to leave town August 3; the Senate, August 10. It's widely recognized that passing major health reform before recess would be difficult, if not impossible.
So, after visiting the hospital today, Obama didn't mention that deadline. Instead, he called for passage of a reform bill by the end of 2009.
"Let's pass reform by the end of this year," Obama said as he wrapped up his speech.
Reporters asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about August, and Obama's urging for a year-end deadline instead, at this afternoon's press briefing.
"I think Peter was pretty clear about this over the weekend," Gibbs said, referencing Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag's comment on Sunday that August is still "the goal." Orszag told CNN's Anderson Cooper that the administration still thinks it can get health reform done by then.
"The President says we're making good progress and the President believes we can get this done by August," Gibbs said.
If reform looks imminent, Congress could be kept in session longer than scheduled. It will be up to the House and Senate leaders whether to do so, Gibbs said.