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Nobel In Hand, Obama Returns to the Grind

With a Nobel Peace Prize in hand, President Obama is returning to the grind of governing, refocusing on his top domestic priority as the Senate moves toward a pivotal moment on legislation to remake the nation's health care system.

Obama left Norway for Washington on Friday after becoming the first chief executive to collect the storied award so early in his tenure. He blitzed through his Nobel itinerary, then met privately with U.S. embassy staff at his hotel before returning to a huge agenda hanging in the balance, including health care and another European trip next week for a climate summit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is working privately to secure support among Senate Democrats for a tentative deal to expand the government' role in health care. The potential breakthrough in the long health care debate was reached last weekend, and Democrats are driving for a final vote before Christmas. The House already has passed its bill.

Obama's goal - to expand coverage to those without it, improve it for those who do and rein in the crushing costs of health care - remains at the core of his political efforts. Congress has spent months trying to get out a bill that satisfies its own blocs and Obama.

The focus on health care, however, will be brief. Obama will be returning to Europe next Friday - to Copenhagen this time - to join scores of leaders from across the globe in final negotiations on a pact to aimed at stemming emissions blamed for global warming.

Senators supporting climate legislation offered a revised proposal Thursday that calls for a 17 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, similar to the reductions Obama has said he will call for at the Copenhagen talks. Press secretary Robert Gibbs hailed the measure as "a significant step in the effort to pass comprehensive energy reform."

The bill also includes incentives for building nuclear power plants, and it would open the way for possible expanded oil and gas drilling off the nation's coastlines. Both are seen as key to attracting Republican support needed to win Senate approval of the climate bill.

In accepting the peace prize, Obama spelled out a doctrine of justifiable war and the steps needed for a "just and lasting peace."

Obama Speech Channels George W. Bush

The hawkish message was an inevitable nod to the controversy defining his selection: an American president, lauded for peace just as he escalates the long, costly war in Afghanistan. He accepted the peace prize just nine days after ordering 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

"I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people," Obama told his audience in Oslo's soaring City Hall. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world."

In a "60 Minutes" interview to air this Sunday, President Obama admits the effort to defeat al Qaeda also depends on cooperation from Pakistan, reports CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante, and it may take a very long time.

"Will we have no terrorist threat once this is completed? Unfortunately, the threat will probably be with us for a longer period of time," says Mr. Obama. "But will we be safer than we otherwise would have been? And would the investment have been worth it? I think the potential is yes."

And yet for all the talk of might - as Obama put it, the tools of war have a role in preserving peace - he also stressed the need to avoid conflict.

More on Obama's Nobel Prize:

Obama Offers Treatise on War and Peace
Obama: U.S. Standard Bearer for Peace
Washington Unplugged: Obama In Oslo: War For Peace
Photos: Obama in Norway
Full Text of Obama's Remarks
Video: Obama's Nobel Prize Speech (excerpts)
Analysis: Can Obama Deliver on Nobel Peace Prize Goals?
Who Should Get Obama's Nobel Prize Cash?

He called for alternatives to killing, like sanctions with true bite. He defined peace as civil rights, free speech and economic opportunity, not just the absence of conflict. And he pushed himself away from George W. Bush, defending diplomacy that engages even enemies.

Obama was chosen for the award more for his aspirations and approach than his accomplishments thus far. The Nobel committee honored him for changing the tenor of international politics and pursuing goals that the winner himself says will take a world effort, like nuclear disarmament and reversing global warming.

At a dinner in his honor Thursday night, Obama paid tribute to his mother, who died before his election to the presidency.

"To the extent I am deserving of this esteemed prize, either now or in the future, it will be largely because of her and the largeness of her heart," Obama said.

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