Obama defends health plan

Republican leader McConnell warns president of consequences
Last Updated 20 September 2009, 17:17 IST

The president, appearing in interviews on five television networks, said the health care fight had been more difficult than he anticipated and conceded that he has struggled “breaking through.” He said he remained confident he would sign a health care bill into law and welcomed Republicans to the effort, but added, “I don’t count on them.” “This isn’t a radical plan,” Obama told ABC’s This Week’. “This isn’t grafting a single payer model onto the United States. It’s simply trying to deal with what everybody acknowledges is a big problem.”

The president said he disagreed with critics who suggested that the health care legislation requiring Americans to get insurance coverage would amount to a tax increase on the middle class, which he pledged last year not to do. He argued that if nothing is done on health care, the middle class would fare far worse with rising medical costs.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, predicted that there would be consequences for the president and the Democratic lawmakers if they pushed the health care debate through Congress without bipartisan support. He said the current plan would raise taxes on small businesses and individuals and impact Medicare coverage.

“If they try to use this legislative loophole called reconciliation, what they’ll be doing, in effect, is jamming through a proposal to rewrite the economy with about 24 hours of debate,” Mr. McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think that will produce a very severe reaction among the American people.”

Eight months after taking the oath of office, Obama conducted back-to-back interviews in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday. The interviews aired Sunday morning on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Univision, an unprecedented blitz across the television networks by a sitting president.

In addition to pushing his health care plan, Obama also discussed the economy, immigration, the role that his race has played in the contentious protests and demonstrations and the war in Afghanistan. He said he remained committed to pushing for an overhaul of the immigration system, but added that he could not undertake that issue now.

Obama did not say whether he would send more troops to Afghanistan, but he added that the strategy had become “somewhat adrift,” and said he needed to remind Americans the war was a necessary front in the fight against terrorism.

(Published 20 September 2009, 17:17 IST)

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