August deadline for health care bill

Date 2009/7/21 10:00:00 | Topic: Health Care Bill Threat

Obama defends August deadline for health care bill
By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer Erica Werner, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is defending his relentless campaign for a health care bill before Congress' August recess, saying "the default in Washington is inaction and inertia." The Republican Party chairman assailed it as an "excessive push."

The fault lines in the debate emerging as Topic A in the capital remained intact Tuesday as Obama defended the deadline, saying the American people want the overhaul done quickly, and GOP Chairman Michael Steele demanded: "Take your time!"

At the same time, Obama remained noncommittal on a surtax to pay for the overhaul, which some experts have said could cost over $1 trillion in the next several years to reconstitute and incorporate some 46 million uninsured into the system. He did reiterate his opposition to taxing people's employer-provided health benefits, however.

The president noted in an interview on NBC's "Today" show that "the House has put forward a surtax." And he repeated his feeling that wealthier Americans, "such as myself," should pitch in and help reinvent the system to spread coverage to those now without it.


Obama has said that people making over $250,000 a year should have to pay more, and he defended his insistence on getting a bill from lawmakers before they leave next month on their summer recess. Asked why he felt so strongly about the timeline, he replied, "because if you don't set a deadline in this town, nothing happens."

"And the deadline isn't being set by me," he said. "It's being set by the American people."

Whatever the pressure points in the argument, Republicans said it's all happening too fast.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell argued that a rapid-fire approach carries pitfalls similar to ones that have affected the $787 billion economic stimulus package .

"Health care reform is too important to rush through and get wrong," the Kentucky lawmaker said in a Senate speech.

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