July 23, 2009 -- President Obama continued to push forward on health care reform today, despite suffering a setback with news that a health care reform bill would not come to a vote in the Senate before the August deadline Obama had imposed.
"Our general view is we can get this done by the fall, and so this doesn't set back that schedule," Obama told ABC News' Terry Moran, in an exclusive interview.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the Senate's delay, but assured that the Senate Finance Committee will produce a health care bill before the month-long recess, which will then be voted on come fall.
In an interview with Moran, Obama remained optimistic.
"Frankly if you don't express a sense of urgency about this thing then people always say, 'Let's put it off.' And I really do think that the families that I talk to who are struggling with health care right now can't afford it to be put off," he said.
On the heels of a primetime news conference pushing health care reform, Obama traveled to Ohio and held a town hall meeting on health care, where he addressed fears and stigmas associated with a public plan.
"Nightline's" Terry Moran joined the president on the road as he attempted to rally public support.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that tepid support for President Obama's health care efforts have weakened his popularity, with his job approval rating falling to 59 percent.
Speaking with Moran, Obama reinforced that the time for substantive health care reform is now.
"The country has to reform its health care system or else not only are you going to continue to have people really going through a hard time, we're also going see a continuing escalation of our budget problems that can't get under control," Obama told Moran. "I think America has to win it here."
Obama Calls for Distinctly American Plan for American People
In the dialogue surrounding health care, Obama warned against "scare tactics," which he said are fostering anxiety and serving to distract Americans from the plan's principles.
"I think people -- even if they're dissatisfied with their health care right now -- they get nervous which, you know, I completely understand. And so my job has been to make sure that people understand the status quo is untenable," Obama said. "My job as president is to get the facts and the facts are on our side in this situation."
Obama maintained that the government's public plan will work to restructure the health care industry to use funds more efficiently.
"We don't want to see that money wasted on weapons systems that aren't needed. We don't want it spent on welfare programs that don't work. And we shouldn't want that spent on tests that aren't making people better," he said. "So the real issue is, are we getting the best value for the money that we are already spending? And the answer is no."
During Thursday's trip to Ohio, the president visited the Cleveland Clinic, a top medical institution, which he has lauded for its cost-effective approach to health care.
But on the debate surrounding the virtues of public versus private, employer versus single-payer system, above all, Obama said that, title aside, he wants "an American system that works well for the American people."
Obama Defends Comments on Gates Arrest
Despite his efforts to keep the focus on health care, Obama's controversial comments that the Cambridge, Mass., Police had acted "stupidly" in arresting Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, have touched a nerve, reigniting a debate on race relations.
When asked by Moran if he regretted his comments, Obama said he was surprised that his remarks were receiving so much attention.
"I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary," Obama said, "You probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home."
Obama told Moran that he had "extraordinary respect" for the work of police officers, but that it seemed out of line to arrest a man in his home if he was not causing a disturbance.
"I think that it doesn't make sense with all the problems that we have out there to arrest a guy in his own home if he's not causing a serious disturbance," Obama said. "And my suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed."
Obama On Spirituality
With the responsibilities of the presidency weighing down on his shoulders, Obama said that he has managed to maintain his spirituality.
"Well, I had a habit of praying every night before I go to bed. I pray all the time now because I've got a lot of stuff on my plate and I need guidance all the time," Obama joked.
"When you're in this job, I think that every president who's had it is constantly humbled by the degree to which there are a lot of issues out there and the notion that one person alone can solve all these problems," he said. "I think you're cured of that illusion very quickly. This is something where you just hope that you are aligning your work with His purposes and that you're attuned to the needs of the people you're there to serve."