"I thought it was strong. I thought he laid out the details probably better than he has to date," Carnahan says about the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress. "I thought it was very timely that he did that as Congress had fanned out across the country and had literally thousands of town hall forums, large and small. But also, I think it was important that he called out those who had been peddling disinformation about the plan."
Carnahan held one of those town hall meetings that turned raucous early on. Opponents of health care legislation loudly proclaimed their objections during the meeting in St. Louis. A couple of people left the meeting battered and bruised on both sides, with charges and counter-charges leveled in the ensuing days.
Opposition seemed to build from there, dominating many of the town hall meetings held during the Congressional recess in August. Carnahan says the president needed to assert himself into the debate.
"Early on, I think (President Obama) made the strategic and correct decision not to be overly prescriptive to Congress; to let Congress go through its process," Carnahan says. "And we’ve done that, through five different committees, through engaging with constituents and experts, but I think now is the time to really weigh in and try to pull those consensus ideas together."
Carnahan acknowledges there is much work ahead. He says there are significant differences between the House and Senate, though he agrees with the president that all sides seem to be in agreement on 80% of the legislation. He says the sticking points that remain center on the coverage guidelines that will be imposed on private health insurers and the shape any public option might take. Carnahan says the end result needs to drive health care costs down and drive quality up while remaining deficit neutral.