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Obama defends health bill in pre-vacation media blitz

Updated 6:30 p.m.
By Michael D. Shear
Hours before he leaves for a Hawaiian vacation Thursday morning, President Obama said he expects a final health care deal to include taxes on wealthy individuals as well as surcharges on expensive, so-called "Cadillac" health care plans.

"Taxing Cadillac plans that don't make people healthier, but just take money out of their pockets because they're paying more for insurance than they need to -- that's actually a good idea and that helps bend the cost curve," Obama told NPR's Robert Siegel and Julie Rovner.

The interview was part of a pre-vacation media blitz aimed in large measure at the president's own party, which has been increasingly divided over the shape of the health-care reform legislation.

In one-on-one conversations with media organizations, including one Tuesday with The Washington Post, Obama insisted that the final bill he will sign does not compromise much on the core principles that he said should unite the party.

"This notion, I know, among some on the left that somehow this bill is not everything that it should be -- that we still need a single-payer plan ... just ignores the real human reality that this will help millions of people and end up being the most significant piece of domestic legislation at least since Medicare and maybe since Social Security," he told NPR Wednesday.

That message echoes his comments to The Post, in which he said that "nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health-care bill. Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill."

He also downplayed differences between the bills produced by the congressional chambers, which he suggested are restricted to a handful of issues. "Ninety-five percent of the House bill and the Senate bill are in accord. And there are going to be some tough negotiations around the 5 percent," he told NPR.

Asked if he'd be involved in helping Congress reconcile the bills, Obama told Jim Lehrer of the "Newshour" on PBS in a Wednesday interview: "Absolutely. We hope to have a whole bunch of folks over here in the West Wing and I'll be rolling up my sleeves and spending some time before the whole Congress even gets into session."

For Obama, the fight over health care, and the compromises he has made in other legislative battles, threatens to erode his support among his staunchest supporters, including progressives, African Americans, gays and women.

His end-of-the-year messaging was clearly aimed at countering that notion.

In an interview Monday with April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, Obama pushed back against criticism from some black lawmakers that he has not done enough to help the African American community.

"This notion, somehow, that because there wasn't a transformation overnight that we've been neglectful is just simply, factually not accurate," he told Ryan.

Obama repeated that argument in an interview Tuesday with syndicated radio host Tom Joyner: "I think the main message that I've got for the African American community as we go into this next year is that this has been a hard one. It's been a tough one. But Michelle and I are so blessed by the support that we receive, and everywhere we go, people come up to us and say, 'We're praying for you, thinking about you and rooting for you.' I just want everybody to know that goes both ways, and I'm praying for all your listeners and thinking about all your listeners, and we're rooting for you. And that's not just Michelle and me --
that's Malia and Sasha, the first grandmother."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 23, 2009; 5:35 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Health Care  
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Next: Obamas leave for Hawaii vacation


It will be an especially merry Obama family Christmas with this major legislative victory in his stocking, coming despite the brutal summer of town halls and the like.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | December 24, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Looks like this won't be Obama's Waterloo after all.

Anything that's wrong with this bill is the result of republican interference with the will of the people to design it in a way that serves hard working Americans, rather than insurance company flim-flam artists. If we had single payer healthcare paid for with pre-Bush taxes, there would be no burden on small business, we'd just be rid of the dead weight obstructionist insurance company leeches.
If you could play back all of the remarks made by anti-reform repubicans at one time, only the most dense dim-wit would fail to see how baseless, deranged, and psychotic the republican opposition to this measure has been.

Posted by: rooster54 | December 24, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I hope this program will forever be known as "Obamacare" so that when our health care system falls apart, we'll know who's responsible. Obama and his acolytes won't be able to blame George Bush or the Republican party for this debacle (as is their modus operandi). For those who say this program will be our saving grace, I ask this - if it's so great, why is Congress exempt from it? One would think they'd be queuing up for a chance at the "terrific opportunity" that has been foisted on those of us without connection or political clout.

Posted by: theresa99 | December 24, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Obamacare will have it's own "Cadillac Plan", that plan will be the one where you actually get to see a Doctor for your pain pills instead of the Nurse.

Posted by: sam51 | December 24, 2009 4:41 AM | Report abuse

The only thing that Obama is getting is a seat on the Board of Directors at Insurance and finance compa nies once he leaves office.

He's guaranteeing that he'll be richer than heck once he leaves office

Posted by: tru-indy | December 23, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

URGENT TO POTUS/VPOTUS (via W.H. press office)

Mr. President: First, Do No Harm."


• Secret multi-agency federal program uses cell towers and GPS satellite microwave/laser attack system to torture, impair, subjugate "targeted" citizens -- and oversees local "community watch" vigilante terrorism and financial sabotage campaigns.

See story at: ("Reporting and Writing" section)


Posted by: scrivener50 | December 23, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

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