WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Saturday he is ready to compromise with Republicans on health care if they are serious about it, but that an overhaul must go forward. "Let's get this done," he said.
Obama's comments in his weekly Internet and radio address, two days after an all-day bipartisan summit across from the White House, were the latest sign that Democrats are getting set to try to pass health care legislation without any Republicans on board.
Success will require colossal efforts on the part of Obama and Democratic leaders to round up votes after a year of corrosive debate and a Senate special-election upset that threw the overhaul effort into limbo last month. But Obama and the Democrats reject the piecemeal approach sought by Republicans and have no intention of scrapping their 10-year, $1 trillion bill and starting over, as the GOP demands.
"I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge," Obama said.
"The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses cannot wait. Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.
"It is time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities to the American people and to future generations," Obama said.
Obama's legislation would insure some 30 million more Americans over 10 years with a new requirement for nearly everyone to carry insurance and would end insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with medical problems. Republicans generally oppose mandates that make everyone get insurance, and although they want people with health conditions to be able to buy insurance, they would try to address the problem without new requirements on insurers.
Obama plans to release an updated proposal in the week ahead, likely on Wednesday, according to press secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs suggested it would include concepts put forward by Republicans at the summit. One attendee, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was contacted Friday by the White House and asked to submit details of suggestions he made to tackle waste and fraud in the medical system, Coburn's spokesman said.
John Hart said Coburn views Obama's legislation as a government takeover and would not be able to support it even if it includes some of his proposals.
Adding Republican ideas is not likely to win Republican votes because the GOP insists Democrats should start from scratch. But Obama would be able to say that he'd listened to Republicans and attempted to meet them part way. Moving ahead may mean using Senate rules that would let Democrats pass legislation with a simple majority instead of the 60 vote they no longer command.
The approach infuriates Republicans and is opposed by some Democratic moderates because of its partisan nature.
Coburn, in the GOP's weekly address, argued against a Democrats-only bill.
"Unfortunately, even before the summit took place the majority in Congress signaled its intent to reject our offers to work together," Coburn said. "Instead they want to use procedural tricks and back-room deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year."
"The American people are telling us to scrap the current bills, which will lead to a government takeover of health care, and we should start over," Coburn said.
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Obama weekly address: http://www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/user/gopweeklyaddress