On March 23, 2010, after a bruising year of debate, negotiation and backlash, President Barack Obama finally signed the health reform bill that he had promised more than a year before. But at what cost to his popularity and to the ideals of bipartisanship and open government that he’d campaigned on?
In Obama’s Deal, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk (Bush’s War, Dreams of Obama) takes viewers behind the headlines to reveal the political maneuvering behind Barack Obama’s effort to remake the American health system and transform the way Washington works. Through interviews with administration officials, senators and Washington lobbyists, Obama’s Deal reveals the dramatic details of how an idealistic president pursued the health care fight — despite the warnings of many of his closest advisers — and how he ended up making deals with many of the powerful special interests he had campaigned against.
“The stakes couldn’t be much higher,” former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) tells FRONTLINE about what was involved in the landmark health care legislation. “We’re talking about almost 20 percent of our gross domestic product today, $2.5 trillion. Literally tens, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on lobbying. Every special interest has their oar in the water.”
To navigate the process of health reform, President Obama turned to his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a consummate deal maker, who helped stock the West Wing with an all-star lineup of congressional insiders. But almost immediately, a key member of the team was forced to step down, and the country’s greatest champion of health reform, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), was sidelined with incurable brain cancer. The administration’s hopes for reform rested with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the powerful head of the Senate Finance Committee, who also happened to be one of the Senate’s top recipients of special interest money from the health care industry.
The White House encouraged Baucus to quietly negotiate deals with the insurance lobby, drug companies and other special interest groups, despite promises to run a different kind of White House. “The president said that having people at the table is better than having them throw stuff at the table,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer tells FRONTLINE.
Veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk (Bush’s War, Dreams of Obama)
Read Full Article Here