Speaking from the South Lawn of the White House on what the president called a "gorgeous" and "an encouraging day," Obama, Vice President Biden and congressional leaders vowed to have a comprehensive health care bill on the House floor before the August recess.
"Our goal is to have a healthier America," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Our legislation will be on the floor by the end of July, I am quite certain."
Pelosi and other leaders, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-NY, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., met with the president and vice president this morning to discuss health care. Speaking after Pelosi, Obama called health care reform "one of the key pillars of a new foundation for our economy." "Our healthcare system is broken," he said.
The president called the current cost of health care unsustainable for businesses, families, states and the federal government.
"The fact of the matter is the most significant driver, by far, of our long-term debt and our long-term deficits is ever-escalating health care costs," Obama said. "And if we don't reform how health care is delivered in this country, then we are not going to be able to get a handle on that." The president said that he sees a shift in thinking from traditional opponents of such reform, such as insurance companies, drug makers and labor unions.
"We've got to get it done this year, both in the House and in the Senate. And we don't have any excuses; the stars are aligned," he said.
The president said the plan must uphold three principles:
1. Rising costs must be brought down.
2. Americans must be able to choose their own doctor and plan.
3. All Americans must have access to quality, affordable healthcare. The president ended his remarks and began to leave the podium when Speaker Pelosi jumped back to the microphone to praise Obama for his work on the issue thus far, saying that he had done more to promote health care so far than "has been done in our country since Medicare was established in the '50s." Reporters shouted questions at the president, but they went ignored as he and the group walked back up the path to the Oval Office.
-- Yunji de Nies, Ann Compton and Karen Travers