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Obama adamant on health care

President expects difficulty but insists he’s committed to reform

Mike Dorning Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama predicted travails ahead for the struggle to pass health care reform but offered a hopeful outlook for passage of legislation providing access to insurance coverage for all, saying “the stars may be aligned” for a deal on a goal that eluded the last Democratic president.

Obama said he is “absolutely committed” to moving forward with a health care plan while also promising he would announce his Supreme Court nomination “soon” in a C-SPAN interview aired Saturday that covered a broad range of subjects and touched on his family life and work habits in the White House.

The president described himself as a “night owl” who usually tucks his daughters into bed and then stays up until midnight going over stacks of work-related papers or writing.

After a grueling two-year national campaign and, before that, regular commutes between Washington and Chicago while he was a U.S. senator, he said, the presidency has been “terrific” for family life, noting that the White House includes a “pretty nice home office” and he is home for dinner most nights.

He said he even has been to “a couple” of his daughters’ soccer games and portrayed the first family’s domestic life as similar to that of other American families.

“We’ve got some issues like every other family has that they have to work through,” Obama said.

Despite the often-withering criticism he leveled against his predecessor during the presidential campaign, Obama said he has had conversations with President George W. Bush since taking office but offered no other details.

“I think that although I’ve only been president four months, I think a general policy of keeping confidence with your predecessors is important,” Obama said.

Obama said he believed he would be able to succeed where President Bill Clinton failed on health care reform because escalating costs have shifted the political climate.

“Businesses now recognize that if we don’t get a handle on this stuff that they are going to continue to be operating at a competitive disadvantage with other countries,” Obama said. “And so they anxiously seek serious reform.”

Asked about the financial crisis in California, Obama said he did not believe the federal government would provide a bailout, though he acknowledged the state faced “some very difficult choices.” But he said his administration would try to help California and other states overcome “uncertainty and anxiety in the credit markets” so they can continue to issue bonds to renew outstanding debt.

“We are talking to state treasurers across the country, including California, to figure out, are there some creative ways that we can just help them get through some of these difficult times,” Obama said.

The president is expected to announce his nomination to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter within the next week or two. In the interview, Obama repeated past statements that he was looking for a justice who combined intellect with common sense and empathy for the struggles of ordinary people.

“There is going to be 5 percent of the cases there where the language is ambiguous, where the constitutional precedent is not clear. And in those situations you want a judge who has a sense of what’s going on in the day-to-day lives of the American people and has some practical experience,” Obama said.

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