Harkin’s Oval Office meeting; he’ll meet with First Lady, too

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) went to the White House this afternoon to have a sit down in the Oval Office with President Obama and Phil Schiliro, one of Obama's congressional liaisons.  It was just the three of them in the room.

"The basic conversation was how we really make prevention and wellness and health promotion a central part of not only our health care bill but our whole health care system in America," Harkin said in a telephone interview immediately after the meeting.

About two weeks ago, Harkin expressed concerns that Obama wasn't speaking enough about prevention and Harkin was even more frustrated by the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the health care reform package that cleared the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee because it did not take into account the "secondary savings" that will be achieved if Americans start choosing healthier lifestyles.

"The president's as frustrated by (the CBO) as I am," Harkin said this afternoon by telephone as he rode from the White House back to his senate office.  "…The president gets it.  He does get what it means to promote prevention and wellness."

Did the three talk about the make or break atmosphere surrounding the bill?

"The president remains firm in his commitment to get a bill through and also firm in his commitment to make prevention one of the central parts of this legislation," Harkin said. "…Out of this (Oval Office) meeting, I'm now going to be meeting with the first lady about the child nutrition bill and how we can work together with her to really get a change in the way we can feed our kids, especially in our school lunch and our school breakfast plans."

Harkin lamented what he called the "misinformation" that's floating around about the bills that are pending in congress, but Harkin likewise expressed confidence Obama would be able to lead the debate and get a bill passed.  

"He's just one of the smartest guys I've ever met in my life, but deeply committed to changing the way we do things in our country.  That's what I like about him — he's not afraid of change," Harkin said.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.