WASHINGTON --Faced with reluctant Democrats and almost no GOP support for his health care plans, President Obama used most of his Wednesday night press conference to try to explain to the public why Congress needs to pass a health care system overhaul.
Questions about health care dominated most of Obama's fourth White House press conference, where he called on reporters from Cleveland and Chicago, cities he will visit today.
Obama has been on a media blitz to keep pressure on Congress to advance legislation before leaving for an August summer recess. This afternoon, he tours the renowned Cleveland Clinic with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, followed by a town hall forum on health care at a suburban Cleveland High School.
In Chicago tonight, Obama headlines two fund-raisers for the Democratic National Committee -- with about 750 guests at the Hyatt Regency and a $15,200-a-person dinner for 110 folks at the home of Penny Pritzker, the Obama campaign finance chairman.
Obama seemed open to extending his self-imposed August deadline for Congress to move along health care, saying he set it in the first place just to keep up pressure: "If you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen. The default position is inertia, because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy."
Also, Obama left the impression he did not seem wedded to having Congress create a "public option" system to compete with private insurance companies -- a plank in his health care overhaul platform.
While pragmatic, Obama threatened to veto bills if they came to him with what he considered fatal flaws.
"If, at the end of the day, I do not yet see that we have it right, then I'm not going to sign a bill that, for example, adds to our deficit," Obama said.
"I won't sign a bill that doesn't reduce health-care inflation so that families as well as government are saving money. I'm not going to sign a bill that I don't think will work."
But he did not say he won't sign a bill that does not have a public option.
Obama is faced with complaints from Democrats on the left and on the right over costs and coverage. Blue dog Democrats -- fiscal conservatives -- are balking because the health care plans Congress is considering cost too much and raise taxes on people with high incomes. Progressive Democrats are lobbying Obama to not retreat from expanding covering by including a public option plan--the details of which have been figured out.
"I'm confident at the end we're going to have a bill that Democrats and some Republicans support."
Most intriguing were two questions about sacrifices people may have to make in treatment options. Obama reframed the question to a way that fits more with his view that keeping down health costs is key to helping the nation's economic recovery.
Said Obama, "They're going to have to give up paying for things that don't make them healthier. And I -- speaking as an American, I think that's the kind of change you want."