We're liveblogging the president's news conference tonight. With health care expected to dominate, President Obama will address the nation and the press corps, seeking to make his case as doubt grows along with the consternation of moderate and conservative Democrats.
8:04 President says he wants to talk about how health insurance reform fits into broader economic strategy. (Note: a poll earlier this week showed 85 percent of Americans want Obama to address health care as part of his broader economic plans.)
That's how Obama frames his remarks: starts off by talking about an economy that benefits "those folks at the very top" and "simply wasn't ready to compete in the 21st century."
"Health insurance reform is central to that [economic recovery] effort," Obama says.
8:09 Obama lays out the plan, touting "rough agreement in the following areas" of letting people keep their current insurance plans, "giving you the option to keep your insurance if you're happy with it," preventing "insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick," a "marketplace of choice and competitions," and that "no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a preexist condition"--something America's Health Insurance Plans agrees on
8:10 Obama references Bush programs that weren't paid for, including the Bush tax cuts, saying "that's why I inherited" government debt
8:11 Now the hits on Republicans...Obama repeats the "this isn't about me" line, adding "I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress"...brings William Kristol's "move in for the kill" comment into it, referencing Kritol as "one Republican strategist"...
8:12 Re-states his pledge not to raise middle class taxes...
The new deadline: Obama abandons his August deadline for health care, closing his remarks with, "and we will do it this year."
8:17 The main talking point in Obama's response to the first question, asked by the Associated Press: he doesn't want the plan to be "shouldered by" the middle class--a point he repeats several times.
"If I see a proposal that is funded by taxing middle class families, I'm gonna be opposed to it," he says.
8:18 Says he wants to "see what comes out of those committees"--primarily meaning Senate Finance--and continue to look for ways to cut costs on the plan. Cost is the primary concern of the moderate Dems Obama will need to win--the votes that will determine the fate of the plan.
In response to a follow up question: "Is that your job?" (Obama has focused on pressing for broad principles and the necessity of reforming the system, rather than a detailed plan) Obama says "Absolutely it's my job, I'm the president and this has to get done."
8:22 Speaking to why he set the apparently blown August deadline in the first place, Obama says, "If you don't set deadlines in this town, nothing gets done."
"If we hadn't had any kind of deadline, that change [concensus and support from industry] probably wouldn't have surfaced until who knows when," he adds later, making the point that if Democrats are diligent and honest, reform will come.
8:26 Chuck Todd asks about an individual mandate; Obama says Americans want health care, they just can't afford it. Raises the possibility of a "hardship exemption" for people who still can't afford health care after reforms.
8:29 Todd asks whether this is really a fight inside the Democratic Party, given the Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate--asks whether Obama hasn't been blaming Republicans.
"Well, first of all you haven't seen me out there blaming the Republicans, I've been a little frustrated by some of the misinformation coming out of the Republicans, but that has to do with...politics," Obama says.
...points to Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who sits as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), a perennial moderate Republican in the upper chamber, as GOPers who have been "serious in engaging with Democrats."
...says "We've seen Republican ideas" included in Democratic plans...specifically in the Senate HELP Committee bill, in which "160 Republican amendments were adopted into that bill."
More directly, on Democratic concern/dissent with reform plans, Obama says: "The fact of the matter is that, because this is a big issue, I think a lot of Democrats have a lot of different ideas, some of then have to do with regional disparities...[some are concerned that] Medicare reimbursement rates in their communities are too low, so they'd liek to see the bill....incentivize [doctors to practice in] rural communities...[but that] adds money, and then you have to find additional dollars, so this is part of just the normal give and take of the legislative process."
...says he's "confident that at the end we're going to have a bill that Democrats and some Republicans support."
8:37 Obama gets asked about government debt--the principal concern among conservatives with his reform initiative.
Obama credits the previous administration with spending and debt that his White House has inherited: "Alll those people out there who have been ginned up about how the Obama administration wants to spend and spend and spend, the fact of the matter is we inherited an enormous deficit....have not reduced it as much as we need to and we would like to...health care is not going to add to that deficit, it is designed to lower it."
8:43 On a question of transparency--as there has been some controversy over a request that the administration release a list of the health care industry executives' visits to the White House--Obama says he understands a letter has been sent out with a list of the executives who have visited.
"I think we have provided greater transparency" than the previous administration, Obama says.
8:48 Obama takes a question on financial regulatory reform, and whether or not his administration should be taking a harder line on some banks.
Obama uses the idea of putting money "into the kitty" for the second time, previously discussing health care, this time it's a kitty to avoid taxpayer bailout money for banks in the future.
On executive compensation, Obama says: "I'd like to think people would feel a little remorse [over lavish bonuses]...but if shame does not work, then...[something I've proposed is that] at least shareholders of these companies know what their executives are being compensated."
"For banks that are still receiving taxpayer assistance, we have a set of rules that gives us some control on reducing unwarranted companesation," Obama says.
8:52 A recurring theme: inefficiency and bad incentives in the health care system. Obama talks about doctors motivated by a pay scale to make more expensive decisions, not "what's best for patient care."
In pointing out the need for reform, this is a note Obama has hit on several times tonight, as he has before: excessive tests and treatments that benefit doctors and health care professionals, get billed to insurance companies, and waste money for everyone by driving premiums up across the board.
This time, his analogy is a child who has a sore throat, or recurring sore throats, and a doctor who decides it's more profitable to take the child's tonsils out, even though the child doesn't really need it.
8:54 Possible quote of the night: "I've got the best health care in the world. I'm trying to make sure everybody has good health care, and they don't right now."
8:55 Lynn Sweet askas about Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard professor and race relations expert who was arrested recently trying to break into his own home, having forgotten his keys.
Obama clearly knows the story as he retells it, as he's understood how it played out, to Sweet. In the process, we get possibly the most honest and direct reflection on race relations in America from Obama since his speech in Philadelphia on the topic during the 2008 campaign.
Some highlights of his remarks:
"What's been reported, though, is the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house... [there was a] called in to the police stating that a burgalary was taking place."
"Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is my house....I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry...the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting someone when there was already proof that they were in their own home."
"Ther is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionarly, and that's just a fact...[in the] state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately...that is a sign...race remains a factor in the society."
Obama says the progress in race relations shouldn't be ignored.
"I am standing here as testament to the progress that's been made, and yet the fact is that this still haunts us, even when they're honest misunderstandings."