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Obama Prioritizes
Health Care Reform

Obama Prioritizes
Health Care Reform


President Barack Obama said the words "health care" 14 times during his second nationally televised press conference Tuesday night -- a good sign for LGBT people who have had trouble getting or keeping health insurance.

President Barack Obama said the words "health care" 14 times during his second nationally televised press conference Tuesday night -- a good sign for LGBT people who have had trouble getting or keeping health insurance.

"The bottom line is, is that I want to see health care, energy, education, and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit," President Obama said of the budget he hopes to see Congress approve. It's a theme he pounded home consistently during the hour-long news conference, making very clear that overhauling the country's health system is a nonnegotiable item in his budget.

The Administration originally put a placeholder of $634 billion for health care reform in its proposed budget -- a number that was referred to as a "down payment" on revamping the system. While progressive reformers say the move underscored Obama's commitment to serious health reform, his overall budget has run into a barrage of criticism for its soaring deficits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that Obama's budget would produce a deficit of $9.3 trillion over the next decade -- a figure even more troubling than the already-steep $7 trillion gap the Obama administration predicted last month.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are currently grappling with how to trim the president's budget, which has even raised questions among some moderate Democrats like Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is a strong supporter of the president but ultimately voted against his budget.

Obama sought to stem that criticism at the press conference by explaining the upshot of the heavy spending at the outset of his speech.

"The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation so that we don't face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now," he told the several hundred journalists assembled in the East Room of the White House.

"We invest in the renewable sources of energy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and less dependence on foreign oil. We invest in our schools and our teachers, so that our children have the skills they need to compete with any workers in the world. We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government."

But reporters -- well aware of the budget debate taking place in Congress right now -- returned to the national debt several times, even asking at one point whether running up these kinds of numbers would pass along our problems to the next generation.

"None of us know exactly what's going to happen six or eight or 10 years from now," Obama responded. "Here's what I do know: If we don't tackle energy, if we don't improve our education system, if we don't drive down the costs of health care, if we're not making serious investments in science and technology and our infrastructure, then we won't grow 2.6%, we won't grow 2.2%. We won't grow."

The president took 13 questions that were notable both for who was included and who wasn't. Not a single question went to a major daily newspaper, though Obama's call list hit all the cable news correspondents. He also fielded questions from several constituency group outlets: Ebony, Stars and Stripes , and Univision. And although three questions touched on foreign policy in Mexico, China, and the Middle East, "Iraq" was only mentioned one time and it was in relation to the budget.

While no gay-specific questions were asked, LGBT people have a huge interest in what happens with health care reform based on the greater barriers to access they experience. The more money tagged in the budget for health care, the more sweeping the reforms will likely be.

President Obama is scheduled to spend Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill selling lawmakers on his plan.

"I'm a big believer in persistence," Obama said at one point during the news conference. "That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I'm in this office."

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