President Obama: 'Put Aside Matter of Party' of Jobs Bill, Health Care

In impromptu appearance before reporters, Obama appeals for bipartisanship.

ByABC News
February 9, 2010, 3:35 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2010— -- President Obama appealed for bipartisanship from the podium of the White House briefing room today, calling on Democrats and Republicans to "put aside matters of party," while condemning the "obstinacy" that he says is rooted in "political expedience."

"Bipartisanship depends on a willingness among both Democrats and Republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country," he said. "I won't hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party, but I also won't hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that's rooted not in substantive disagreements, but in political expedience."

The president said Americans are tired of every day being Election Day in Washington and they expect a "seriousness of purpose that transcends petty politics."

Today was the first time since July that Obama has taken questions from the press in a formal setting. The president had just emerged from a bipartisan, bicameral meeting with leaders from Capitol Hill on how to work together on jobs and economy.

Obama joked that the meeting went so well that "McConnell and Reid are out doing snow angels on the South Lawn together."

While that may not be the case, the president said both parties understand that while there are "legitimate and genuine differences between the parties," that many issues are ones where they can and should agree.

Obama faced questions about whether he agrees with calls from Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, for the health care overhaul bills to be scrapped and for the process to start over again from scratch.

The president has called for another bicameral, bipartisan meeting on Feb. 25 on health care reform, which he said today he looks forward to as a "constructive debate."

He said the plans brought to the table then by Republicans and Democrats must be measured against the following test:

"Does it bring down costs for all Americans, as well as for the federal government, which spends a huge amount of health care? Does it provide adequate protection against abuses by the insurance industry?" he asked. "Does it make coverage affordable and available to the tens of millions of working Americans who don't have it right now? And does it help us get on a path of fiscal sustainability?"

The White House has indicated that the president is not willing to walk away from the House and Senate bills, and Obama said today his call for a health care forum later this month would be, in essence, "starting from scratch" because he is still open to ideas that promote his requirements for reform.

"What I will not do, what I don't think makes sense, and I don't think the American people want to see, would be another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months or eight months or nine months worth of hearings in every single committee, in the House and the Senate, in which there's a lot of posturing," he said.

The president said when the parties are together, and the best ideas are on the table, he hopes there will be enough overlap, even if not everyone -- including him -- gets every single thing they want.

"Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all the things that they believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in and want, and that's the price of bipartisanship, right, but that's sometimes the way it gets presented," Obama said.

"I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party, in order to meet them halfway," he said. "But there's got to be some give from their side as well. That's true on health care. That's true on energy. That's true on financial reform. That's what I'm hoping gets accomplished at this summit."