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Obama Pushes for Healthcare Reform

U.S. President Barack Obama's fourth nationally-televised evening news conference Wednesday was dominated by the debate over reforming the country's health care system. The president is trying to overcome objections to his plan from lawmakers in both parties.

President Obama's initiative to fix the way Americans pay for health care is losing popular support and lawmakers from both parties have expressed concern about its cost.

So Mr. Obama held a news conference, to make his case that overhauling the country's health insurance system is an issue that should transcend politics.

"This is about every family, every business and every taxpayer who continues to shoulder the burden of a problem that Washington has failed to solve for decades. This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait any longer for reform," he said.

Mr. Obama accused Republicans of playing politics with the issue, after at least one opposition senator said failure to pass health reform could "break" the president.

However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier that Republicans are also concerned with policy, not politics. "We do not wish anyone ill. We want to get the policy right," he said.

And, House Republican Leader John Boehner said Americans are concerned that Mr. Obama's proposal will involve excessive government involvement in people's lives. "But I think, as Americans look up today, what they see is a big government takeover of health care that is on the table and a plan that, frankly, they do not support," Boehner said.

At the news conference, Mr. Obama said, if the system is not changed, 14,000 Americans will lose health insurance each day. And, he said the United States will not be able to control its deficit if it cannot control health care costs.

He defended his early-August deadline for congressional passage of the legislation, even though it is almost sure to slip.

"If you do not set deadlines in this town, things do not happen. The default position is inertia, because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy," he said.

Seven of the 10 questions asked at Mr. Obama's news conference concerned health care. The president also fielded questions about his efforts to reform the U.S. financial system, and said progress is being made.

"It is not where it needs to be. But people are no longer talking about the financial system falling off a cliff. We have stepped away from the brink," he said.

It was the first major Obama presidential news conference at which he was not asked questions about foreign affairs.