President Obama visited the White House briefing room today, where he made a statement about bipartisanship and then took several questions from reporters. He had a lot to say about health care, starting with this:
There are some core goals that have to be met. We've got to control costs, both for families and businesses, but also for our government. Everybody out there who talks about deficits has to acknowledge that the single biggest driver of our deficits is health care spending. We cannot deal with our deficits and debt long term unless we get a handle on that. So that has to be part of a package.
Number two, we've got to deal with insurance abuses that affect millions of Americans who've got health insurance. And number three, we've got to make health insurance more available to folks in the individual market, as I just mentioned, in California, who are suddenly seeing their premiums go up 39 percent. That applies to the majority of small businesses, as well as sole proprietors. They are struggling.
So I've got these goals. Now, we have a package, as we work through the differences between the House and the Senate, and we'll put it up on a Web site for all to see over a long period of time, that meets those criteria, meets those goals. But when I was in Baltimore talking to the House Republicans, they indicated, we can accomplish some of these goals at no cost. And I said, great, let me see it. And I have no interest in doing something that's more expensive and harder to accomplish if somebody else has an easier way to do it.
So I'm going to be starting from scratch in the sense that I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals. 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. Let's get the relevant parties together; let's put the best ideas on the table. My hope is that we can find enough overlap that we can say this is the right way to move forward, even if I don't get every single thing that I want.
But here's the point that I made to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell: 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. Mitch McConnell said something very nice in the meeting about how he supports our goals on nuclear energy and clean coal technology and more drilling to increase oil production. Well, of course he likes that; that's part of the Republican agenda for energy, which I accept. And I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway. 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 the summit.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later made clear that Obama would not rule out the use of reconciliation, should compromise between the parties become impossible.
Full transcript of Obama's briefing is at whitehouse.gov.