Obama wants Dems to keep trying on stalled plan 

President Obama's Republican-flavored health-care proposal landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, where backers face a brutal fight to get it passed.

"Let's get it done," Obama said. "We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for the past year but for decades."

The president outlined his rationale in a speech at the White House that intensified a furious back-and-forth between the two parties over Obama's plan to use the parliamentary rules of reconciliation to pass the measure.

"The fact is, reconciliation wasn't designed to be, and has never been, used as a partisan political tactic to force wildly unpopular policies on America," said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

Democrats countered that former President George W. Bush tax cuts and more than a dozen other measures have been passed by Republicans since 1980 using reconciliation to circumvent filibuster rules.

The debate over the procedure for considering the measure appeared likely to eclipse the tenets of the revised health-care plan. The revised proposal is likely Obama's last chance to pass his signature legislative policy item.

"At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem," Obama said. "The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead."

Obama is pushing ahead with a health-care package, including individual mandates and federal regulation of the insurance industry.

Obama's plan would create state-run health care exchanges, a phased-in excise tax on gold-plated insurance plans, increased Medicare taxes on investments for high-income taxpayers, new federal subsidies for working class families and penalties for failure to obtain coverage.

"It builds on the current system, where most Americans get their health insurance from their employer," Obama said.

It also builds on a plan passed in the Senate that the president also wants to see passed in the House, where 39 Democrats voted against reform in November.

To sweeten the deal and make it look more bipartisan, Obama said he will explore Republican proposals, including expanding health savings accounts, sting operations to reduce fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, increasing doctor reimbursements for Medicaid patients and federal aid to address malpractice reform.

While Republicans roundly rejected the new plan, Obama is hoping that incorporating their ideas will give moderate Democrats sufficient political cover to support it by the narrow majorities with which he is willing to win.

Republicans warned they will use Obama's reliance on parliamentary moves to push the unpopular bill through as a top campaign issue in the fall. Democrats are hoping Americans ignore rhetoric about voting procedures in Congress and credit them with passing something.

"I don't know how this plays politically, but I know it's right," Obama said of his latest proposal.


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