WASHINGTON - Trying to keep the health care debate moving on his terms, President Barack Obama on Tuesday touted the consensus reached by U.S. lawmakers so far and dismissed efforts to delay or defeat emerging legislation. He called on Washington's leaders to "insist that this time it will be different."
"The American people understand that the status quo is unacceptable," Obama said in a White House appearance.
"They don't care who's up or who's down politically in Washington," the president added. "They care about what's going on in their own lives. They don't care about the latest line of political attack. They care about whether their families will be crushed by rising premiums."
The United States is the only developed nation that does not have a comprehensive national health care plan for all its citizens, leaving about 50 million of America's 300 million people without health insurance.
Obama has made overhauling health care his top domestic priority and it has become the pivotal issue of his young presidency. But Republicans and even some Democrats have been wary of the costs of hastily prepared legislation.
At a crucial moment in the health care discussions, Obama's latest comments did not contain new details or arguments. He tried to keep up the momentum by emphasizing the positive - the broad areas of agreement so far - as opposed to the differences and obstacles that threaten to derail or postpone the effort.
Obama is trying to stay in front of the mounting debate on health care reform by offering statements and doing interviews nearly by the day.
His mission is to get the House and Senate to pass bills before they break for their August recess, a brisk timeframe that has lawmakers working overtime and Republican critics lashing at the president for rushing and overreaching.