President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies argued for sweeping health care overhaul Thursday in an extraordinary live-on-TV summit with Republicans who want far more modest changes.
With the daylong policy debate available from start to finish to a divided public, Obama and Democratic leaders cast the changes they want as critical to tackling an issue that's more pressing to many Americans than the nation's broken health care system — its still-hurting economy. After opening the summit with hugs and handshakes, Obama declared that even as politicians focus on propelling economic growth, they must also address "one of the biggest drags on our economy."
"We all know that this is urgent," he said.
Democrats were looking beyond the meeting even before it started. With GOP lawmakers apparently steadfastly opposed to broad change, the president and his party prepared to move on alone.
"Inaction and incrementalism are simply unacceptable," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to excerpts of the opening remarks she was to deliver. Success of the overhaul effort "will help ensure a more secure fiscal future. "
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