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Obama, Lawmakers Discuss Health Care

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has assured President Barack Obama that legislation to reform the country's health care system will be considered by congress this summer. Lawmakers have also talked with the president about choosing a new Supreme Court justice.

Democrats from the House of Representatives came to the White House Wednesday to brief President Obama on efforts to reform the U.S. health care system.

Afterward, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she promised the president that the House will address health care in the coming months.

"Our legislation will be on the floor by the end of July, I am quite certain," Pelosi said. "And that is really cause for celebration for the American people."

Mr. Obama praised the Speaker for what he called her "urgency and determination" in moving the legislation forward. He said the slumping economy makes reforming the U.S. health care system an urgent matter.

"We have got to get this done," President Obama said. "We have got to get it done this year. We have got to get it done this year, both in the House and in the Senate, and we do not have any excuses. The stars are aligned."

This was the third straight day that Mr. Obama held meetings on health care reform. He said the economy cannot be fixed without fixing health.

"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," Mr. Obama said. "And if we do not reform how health care is delivered in this country, then we are not going to be able to get a handle on that."

Neither the president nor the speaker gave details of what might be included in the legislation. An estimated 50 million Americans do not have health insurance.

A U.S. report released Tuesday says the two main government assistance programs for older Americans are in danger of collapsing. It says the Medicare health insurance program will be unable to pay its bills by 2017, and Social Security, which supplements retirees' incomes, will run out of money in 2037.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators say President Obama plans to make his Supreme Court nomination soon.

Mr. Obama met Wednesday with senators of both parties on the search for a justice to replace David Souter, who plans to retire before the next session starts in October.

Democrat Patrick Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve a nominee before sending the name to the full Senate for confirmation. After talking with the president, he told reporters he sees no reason for any delay in the process.

"Of course, I think it would be irresponsible not to have the ninth justice there when the new session opens up," Leahy said. "That should be the easiest thing in the world to do."

The Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, agrees that the confirmation process will probably be smooth.

"In all likelihood, unless the president sends up a very controversial nominee, the vote should be able to occur well in advance of the first Monday in October, which is when the Court reconvenes," McConnell said.

Later in the day, Mr. Obama began a two-day trip to the Southwestern U.S. by delivering the commencement address at Arizona State University.