Obama Presses His Health Care Preferences

President Obama traveled to Ohio Thursday, continuing to call on Congress to act quickly to overhaul the nation's health care system. But even as the president spoke to an enthusiastic audience in Shaker Heights, Congress was taking steps to slow the process down.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

President Obama traveled to Ohio yesterday, continuing to call on Congress to move quickly to overhaul the nation's health care system. But even as the president spoke to an enthusiastic audience in Shaker Heights, Congress was slowing the process down. In a moment we'll hear from the president's chief of staff.

We begin with NPR's Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA: The president has invested a great deal in health care reform. It was a key element of his campaign. And now six months in office, he's getting a lesson in the difficulties of winning congressional support for such a complex issue. He's been pushing for votes on bills in the House and Senate next month. But yesterday, Senate Leader Harry Reid said the Senate won't make that timeline. The president reacted at the event in Ohio.

President BARACK OBAMA: And, you know, we just heard today that, well, we may not be able to get the bill out of the Senate by the end of August or the beginning of August - that's okay. I just want people to keep on working.

(Soundbite of applause)

Pres. OBAMA: Just keep working.

GONYEA: Mr. Obama urged people to call their representatives in Congress to counter the pressure being applied by Conservative pundits on radio, on cable TV. In recent days, Mr. Obama has been portraying the current health care system - the status quo - as a plan that would be rejected if viewed as just one of the options on the table, one featuring ever escalating premiums. In Shaker Heights, Ohio, he also reached for symbolism citing past challenges the nation has met. He pointed to this week's 48th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

Pres. OBAMA: Well, I believe that this generation, like generations past, stand ready to defy the skeptics and the naysayers…

(Soundbite of applause)

Pres. OBAMA: …that we can once again summon this American spirit…

GONYEA: But in the health care debate, the president is trying to rally people around reform whose shape is still unclear. And where there is still little consensus over what it should look like. That makes this as daunting a political task as he's ever faced.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Shaker Heights.

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