ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
Although President Obama would liked to have seen the final health care bill include a public option, he is overall “very satisfied” that both the House and Senate bills have 95 percent of what he wanted in there, or as he put it, “nine-tenths” of a loaf, he told PBS' Jim Lehrer.
“Look, I’ve been in favor of the public option,” he told Lehrer this afternoon. “I think the more choice, the more competition we have, the better. On the other hand, I think that the exchange itself, the system that we’re setting up that forces insurance companies to essentially bid for three million or four million or five million people’s business, that in and of itself is going to have a disciplining effect.“
But President Obama said although he would have liked to see a public option as one of the elements in the final bill, it should not be a deal-breaker.
“Would I like one of those options to be the public option? Yes. Do I think that it makes sense, as some have argued, that without the public option we dump all these other extraordinary reforms and we say to the 30 million people who don’t have coverage, you know, 'Sorry. We didn’t get exactly what we wanted’? I don’t think that makes sense.”
While he said he is “never completely satisfied,” he added that he is still “very satisfied” by both the House and Senate bills and would sign either of them into law.
“I think, right now, that the Senate and the House bills – if you look at their overlap, the 95 percent that they agree on – if that bill was presented to me ... I would sign it.”
The president predicted that the upcoming reconciliation process between the House and Senate bill will be easier than many people think.
“I actually think that reconciling them is not going to be as difficult as some people may anticipate,” he said, adding that he plans to have a hands-on role in the reconciliation process.
“I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and spending some time before the full Congress even gets into session because the American people need it now,” Obama said. “I intend to work as hard as I have to work, especially after coming this far over the course of the year, to make sure that we finally close the deal.”
The president called the 60-vote filibuster rule that has been employed on the health care debate frustrating – yet praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for working though the procedure.
“I am very frustrated," he said. "I think that right now that’s the way things are operating. And we’ve had to make sure that we fight through those issues. I think Harry Reid has done a very good job grinding it out. But as somebody who served in the Senate, who values the traditions of the Senate, who thinks that institution has been the world’s greatest deliberative body, to see the filibuster rule, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority on legislation – to see that invoked on every single piece of legislation during the course of this year is unheard of.“
President Obama said that if used “prudently," the filibuster is not harmful to democracy.
“It’s not being used prudently right now,” Obama said. “And my hope would be that whether a senator is in the majority or is in the minority, that they’re starting to get a sense, after looking at this year, that this can’t be the way that government runs.”