Obama News Conference

There were no huge shockers as President Obama met the media last night, using a prime time White House news conference to press the case for health reform legislation in the Congress.

An extra word added by President Obama during his opening statement caught my ear right away, as he told the nation about talks with Congress on a health care reform bill, saying that "we already have rough agreement," on various parts of a plan.

The word "rough" was not in his opening statement provided by the White House.  Maybe the preferred usage of that word could have been something like, "the negotiations are proving to be a bit rough at times."

As for why he was trying to "rush" the Congress into voting by early August, the President had a simple response.

"I'm rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs," Mr. Obama said, adding that "if you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen."

Truer words were never spoken about the Congress, where almost the only pressure you can exert on lawmakers is the option of cutting their breaks short and making them work more.

One brow furrowing statement came when Mr. Obama claimed that he hasn't been attacking Republicans for dragging their feet or standing in the way of reform.  I guess that must have been his Evil Twin or something.

"If they've got a good idea, we'll still take it," was his bottom line about getting the GOP more involved in talks on a reform deal, an observation that probably had any Congressional Republicans watching thinking about chucking a beer can or two at the TV.

As for specific details in a bill, the President did his best to sidestep questions and avoided giving super direct answers on what he wants, which is actually what a lot of Democrats want to hear from him right now.

On how to pay for reform, Obama again argued for his plan to limit deductions on the wealthy, an idea that he acknowledged is going nowhere right now in Congress.  He did open the door to supporting a surtax on the rich that wouldn't start until $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for couples.

The President did defend the idea of keeping a public insurance option in the bill, something that's a non-negotiable item for many more liberal Democrats.

"Part of the reason we want a public option is to help keep the insurance companies honest," he said, taking a shot at the industry over its recent profit reports.

"At a time when everyone is getting hammered, they're making record profits and premiums are going up," he said with a rare bit of aggravation in his voice.

"I'm trying to make sure everybody has good health care, and they don't right now."

Will tonight spur a groundswell in his favor?  I'm not so sure.  It seems like a classic Red-Blue divide to me has developed on this issue, so the likelihood of one news conference causing opponents to suddenly want to cave on certain issues seems highly unlikely.

When will we get a deal?  No one is sure about that.  Once again today - for the third straight day - the House Energy and Commerce Committee won't even meet to continue working on the health reform bill.

There are two ways to look at that - they are making progress in closed door negotiations - or they are so far from a deal with the Blue Dogs, that there is no reason to waste time in a markup.

If you make me pick one of those, I'm inclined to say it's the latter.