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Key Senators Discuss Trimming Health Bill

President Obama participates in a forum on health care with supporters at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.
President Obama participates in a forum on health care with supporters at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. (By Alex Wong -- Pool)

"We are willing to make compromises," Obama told his radio audience. But he said he is not willing to give up on "core principles."

Obama tried to clear up what he described as confusion surrounding his health-care proposal. He described the public option -- a government-run provider -- as only a small, and optional, part of his overall initiative.

"What we've said is, we think that's a good idea," Obama said of publicly funded health insurance. "We haven't said that's the only aspect."

Obama repeated his aides' contention that the White House continues to regard a public option as not essential. "The press got a little excited, and some folks on the left got a little excited," he said. "Our position on this hasn't changed."

Lawmakers from both parties have voiced resistance to the public option proposal, but liberal Democrats have been increasingly outspoken in their conviction that it must remain intact for health-care reform to be meaningful.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared Thursday that a government-run health insurance program is mandatory in a House bill, and she knocked down speculation that any health-care bill from her chamber might be watered down before it is brought to a vote, presumably in September.

"I don't know how you would scale it down," Pelosi said in San Francisco. "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option." The bill has passed out of three House committees, in each case including a public option.

Obama was a guest of Philadelphia-based radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, a contrarian, sometimes right-leaning commentator who broke ranks with conservatives last year to support the president in the election. Later in the day, Obama participated in a forum with supporters at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on the same subject.

Staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. contributed to this report.


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