ABC News’ Rachel Martin, Jon Garcia and Karen Travers report:
August – for months that was the goal the president set for Congress to work out a bi-partisan reform bill that would overhaul the country’s entire health care system, providing health care to millions of uninsured Americans. A president can dream. Today, speaking at a town hall meeting outside Cleveland, Ohio, Obama moved the goal posts.
“We just heard today that 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 OK. I just want people to keep on working, just keep working,” said the president. “I want to sign a bill, and I want it done by the end of this year.” And in the next breath, a new goal: “I want it done by the fall,” he said.
What prompted the change? Well, when fellow Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today there would not be a vote on the health care bill until September, Obama didn’t have much room to wiggle.
“So as long as I see folks working diligently and consistently, then I am comfortable with moving a process forward that builds as much consensus as possible,” he said.
During the town hall Obama took eight questions from an audience of about 1,600 people. One question was from a 14-year-old who asked how the president could reassure Americans that his health care proposal isn’t “too much too fast?” Obama’s response? Diligent and responsible work on health care = good. Delaying for the sake of delaying = bad.
But building consensus is murky business. Blue Dog Democrats have been giving the president some grief, reluctant to sign on to a health care bill they say drive the country further into the red.
Obama today acknowledged that this is complicated stuff and deserves authentic deliberation.
But he was then quick to draw parallels with other historic and monumental achievements in American history, like the Apollo 11 landing on the moon 40 years ago this week.
“If we’re going to move this country forward, we can’t be afraid to change, especially a system that we know is broken,” said Obama. “We’ve got to get it done and we’ve got to get it done soon.”
But after today, it appears that “soon” means anytime between now and 2010.