In interviews today with NPR and PBS Newshour, President Obama defended health care reform against attacks from liberal Democrats and called opponents on both sides of the aisle, "politically driven and ideologically driven."
"Considering how difficult the process has been, this is an end product that I am very proud of and is greatly worthy of support," Mr. Obama told NPR's Robert Siegel and Julie Rovner. "This notion... among some on the left that somehow this bill is not everything that it should be, that we still need a single-payer plan, etcetera, etcetera, I think, just ignores the real human reality that this will help millions of people and end up being the most significant piece of domestic legislation at least since Medicare and maybe since Social Security."
In his interview with PBS Newshour's Jim Lehrer, Mr. Obama added: "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."
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Mr. Obama also said that he is willing to settle for alternatives to the public option. "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."
Mr. Obama also remains in favor of taxing high-end "Cadillac" insurance plans.
"I'm on record as saying that taxing Cadillac plans that don't make people healthier, but just take more money out of their pockets because they're paying more for insurance than they need to, that's actually a good idea and that helps bend the cost curve; that helps to reduce the cost of health care over the long term. I think that's a smart thing to do," he told NPR.
Contrary to reports that the White House anticipates a final vote on health care slipping to February, past his State of the Union address, the president remained confident that both chambers of Congress would soon be able to come together and reconcile their respective bills.
"There are a lot of provisions that are both in the Senate and the House bill," he told PBS. "I actually think that reconciling them is not going to be as difficult as some people may anticipate."
PBS' Lehrer also asked Mr. Obama about his recent visit to Copenhagen, and the president said he understood people's disappointment in the outcome of the global climate change summit.
"I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen," Mr. Obama said. "It didn't move us the way we need to."
Mr. Obama also added: "I make no claims, and didn't make any claims going in, that somehow that was going to be everything that we needed to do to solve climate change… My main responsibility here is to convince the American people that it is smart economics and it is going to be the engine of our economic growth for us to be a leader in clean energy."
And what does Mr. Obama think of his first year in office?
"I think I've shown this year that I can make hard decisions, even when they're not popular, and that I take a long view on these problems," he said on PBS Newshour. "And I frankly think that that's what America needs right now."
Read the full transcript of President Obama's interview with PBS Newshour
Read the full transcript of President Obama's interview with NPR
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