At a town hall today in Nashua, NH, President Obama challenged republicans to "show me what you got" and "bring it on" when it comes to health care.
The President was also asked about his commitment to working with Senate Republicans, like New Hampshire's own Judd Gregg.
The President said not only is he willing to meet with Judd Gregg, he likes the Senator very much, and reminded the audience that he likes Gregg so much he did actually nominate him for Commerce Secretary last year.
Read on for some more from President Obama today...
"What I have said is that both the House bill and the Senate bill were 90 percent there. Ten percent of each bill, people had some problems with, and legitimately so. So we were just about to clean those up, and then Massachusetts' election happened. Suddenly everybody says, oh, oh, it's over. Well, no, it's not over. We just have to make sure that we move methodically and that the American people understand exactly what's in the bill.
And what I've done is I've said to the Republicans, show me what you've got. You've been sitting on the sidelines criticizing what we're proposing. I'm happy to defend insurance reforms; I'm happy to defend the fact that we need to provide 30 million people with access to coverage; I'm happy to defend the need to provide small businesses an ability to pool so that they can have the same purchasing power that the big companies have and drive down their premiums and drive down their rates for their employees. I'm happy to have these debates. I just want to see what else you got. And if you've got a good idea, great.
At the Republican caucus, they held up -- they said, we've got a plan; it's going to provide everybody coverage at no cost. And I said, well, if that were true, why wouldn't I take it? My wife Michelle thinks I'm stubborn sometimes, but I'm not that stubborn. Okay, let me think. I could have everybody get health care coverage that's high quality, and it's free, which I'll bet is really popular. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to go through the pain of really working through this hard process in Congress, getting yelled at and called a socialist, because I just -- that's how I roll. I'm a glutton for punishment. (Laughter.)
No, look, if this were easy and simple, first of all, somebody would have done it before. Seven Presidents have failed at this; seven Congresses have failed at this. If this was simple, it would have already been done. It's not.
This is one-sixth of our economy; it's extremely complex. But I want everybody to understand here: The health care proposal we put forward is basically the same shape as the proposal that was put forward by Tom Daschle, former Senate Democratic Majority Leader; Bob Dole and Howard Baker, two Republican Senate leaders...
So here's my thing: You got a better idea? Bring it on. But what I will not do is to stop working on this issue -- because it is the right thing to do for America and you need to let your members of Congress know they shouldn't give up, they should keep on pushing to make it happen. (Applause.)"
"Oh, I wasn't -- I'm willing to meet with anybody, including Senator Gregg, who I offered a job to. (Laughter.) I don't know if you guys remember that. (Applause.) I like Senator Gregg. I think he is a -- he is a serious person. But you know that fiscal commission that I just talked about, that was Gregg's proposal. That was his proposal. It was Senator Judd Gregg and Senator Kent Conrad. And they had been advocating for this for years. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate -- Republican Leader had just a few months ago said this was the way to deal with this. So I said, great, let's do it. And, suddenly, they're gone -- not Judd, Judd is still supportive of it. So what we're going to try to do -- we're going to try to do it by executive order.
My point is the easiest thing to do in politics is to point fingers, to figure out who to blame for something, or to make people afraid of things. That's the easiest way to get attention. That's what reporters will report on. You call somebody a name, you say, look what a terrible thing they've done and they're going to do more terrible things to you if you don't watch out. And you'll get a lot of press attention. And, in some cases, you can win elections, particularly when unemployment is 10 percent.
What's hard is to figure out how to solve these problems. Our long-term deficit, if we can't control health care costs -- I don't care who's talking about eliminating waste from the government, we can't solve the problem. A lot of people just -- let me just give you one example. If you ask a lot of folks what accounts for the federal budget, they'll say foreign aid and pork projects, and if you just eliminated all the foreign aid and the pork projects, somehow we'd bring our deficit under control. Foreign aid accounts for about 1 percent of our federal budget -- 1 percent, not 25 percent, not 20 [percent] -- 1 percent. Earmarks -- all these pork projects -- a lot of them, by the way, people like, a lot of them are wastes of money, and we got to be able to distinguish between the two and make it more transparent so that they're not stuck into bills without anybody knowing about it -- (applause) -- but they only cost -- they amount to about 1 percent of the budget as well.
What really accounts for our federal budget is Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense, interest on the national debt, and then everything else, from national parks to the environmental -- the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. And in order -- if you just wanted to cut the deficit to balance the budget, only on non-discretionary -- or on discretionary non-defense spending -- so if you wanted to exempt out all the entitlements, exempt defense, you'd have to cut all those other things by 60 percent -- 60 percent. Can you imagine?
So we've got to have an honest conversation about all the aspects of the budget, and that's what this commission was designed to do. That's why I think Judd Gregg was absolutely right. I support him on this. And we're going to set up an executive -- by executive order a commission to do this.
But I want good ideas. It is not in my interest to bloat government with wasteful programs, because every time I spend money on a program that doesn't work, that's money that I'm not spending on early childhood education that would make a difference in a child's life -- (applause) -- or on college scholarships to send kids to school. We've got to use our money more wisely. But that can only be done if both parties are responding to the interests of the American people and not their short-term politics."