From Sunlen Miller:
President Obama said today that it is his “greatest hope” that a health care reform bill can be passed this year, and said going forward “in the last give yards,” that it will one of his highest priorities to make sure that there are “no surprises,” and “no secrets” so that everybody understands what exactly is going to be in the final bill.
“It is my greatest hope that we can get this done not just a year from now but soon. We came extremely close,” the president said answering questions in an online town hall for YouTube, “we have this enormous opportunity, but the way the rules work in the United States Senate, we get our 60 votes for everything. After the special election in Massachusetts we now only have 59. We are calling on our Republican colleagues to get behind a serious health plan.”
The President said that it is his hope that Republicans will work with his administration “over the next several weeks,” to get it done.
Asked by an online questioner why the health care negotiations were not on C-SPAN as promised during his 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Obama admitted – as he did last week – that the process was not as open as he had promised.
“As the health care process went forward not every single aspect of it was on C-SPAN. Now keep in mind most of the action was in Congress so every committee hearing that was taking place, both in the House and the Senate, those were all broadly televised. The only ones that were not were meetings that I had with some of the legislative leadership trying to get a sense of what it was that they were trying to do. I think it is a fair criticism, I have acknowledged that.”
The president said he will be putting a high priority at remedying that in the final negotiation process.
“As we move forward making sure that in this last leg, in these last five yards before we get to the goal line, that everybody understands exactly what is going on in the health care bill. That there are no surprises, no secrets, that’s going to be imperative, that’s going to be one of my highest priorities.”
Following up on his State of the Union address last week, President Obama sat down for about 40 minutes today in the White House library – taking over a dozen questions from Americans submitted via text or video via YouTube. YouTube moderator, Steve Grove, chose among the highly rated questions, voted on online, for the president in many categories. The questions were not chosen by the White House nor seen by the president ahead of time.
The questions came from all over the country – from Michigan, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, Maryland and other states – and ranged from clean energy questions, to jobs, the rising cost of tuition, the openness of the internet, the war on terror, the bank bailout, and the crisis in Darfur.
One question left the president defending his actions surrounding the closure of Guantanamo, and the proposed opening of the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois — when an online questioner asked why it was taking so long to close the controversial terrorist detention facility.
“Unfortunately, there has been a lot of political resistance, and you know, frankly, some of it just politically motivated; some of it people being legitimately scared about, ‘Well, if we’ve got somebody who we’ve been told is a terrorist in our backyard, will that make us a target?’ One of the things that we’ve had to try to communicate to the country at large is that historically we’ve tried a lot of terrorists in our courts. We have them in our federal prisons. They’ve never escaped. And these folks are no different.”
The president said regardless his decision has led to some “pretty rank politics,” that he will still have to work through.
“We’ve got to work through that process because Congress ultimately controls the purse strings in creating new facilities. If Congress makes a decision that they are going to try to block the opening of a new facility, it potentially constrains what our administration can do. And so this is something that we’ve got to work through both in Congress but also with public opinion, so that people understand that ultimately this is the right thing to do; by closing Guantanamo, we can regain the moral high ground in the battle against these terrorist organizations.”
The event was broadcast on YouTube and the White House website. Afterward the president said it was “terrific” and that he’d like to do it again sometime soon.