Obama Challenges Health Care Reform Foes, Big Banks in Ohio Speech

His signature health care overhaul legislation may have a hit snag this week, but President Barack Obama said Friday in Cleveland that he remains committed to getting the controversial bill passed. Speaking during a town hall forum at Lorain County Community College in the working class suburb of Elyria, Obama said the reforms contained within the bill were needed to help slow rapid increases in health care costs and ensure that all Americans are covered.Obama conceded the bill "ran into a bit of a buzz saw" this week after its nearly assured passage was thrown into uncertainty late Tuesday after a Republican U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts. Still, Obama vowed to keep fighting for the legislation that would "hold the insurance industry accountable and bring more stability and security to folks in our health care system."

It remains uncertain why kind of legislation the president would support. Tuesday's election was observed by some as a rebuke of the overhaul plan, while others said it showed Americans were more concerned about the economy and jobs than reconfiguring health care.

Speaking at the college, Obama addressed worries about job creation. Ohio has been hard hit by the recession. Its jobless rate rose to 10.9% in December, the state reported Friday, higher than the national average. Critics have charged that the president's $787 billion stimulus program, passed just weeks into his presidency, has failed to create jobs. But the president fought back, saying that the package saved the country from falling into a deeper recession that likely would have resulted in millions more jobs lost. ""We would have been looking at a second Great Depression," he said.

Obama acknowledged that communities such as Elyria, which has seen thousands of blue-collar jobs lost as manufacturers moved away in recent years, have yet to see signs of recovery and he renewed his call for congress to pass a second economic recovery package, an issue Obama aides told CNN will make its way into the president's State of the Union address Wednesday.

The president also pushed for financial regulatory reform to ensure that financial institutions billed as "too-big-to-fail" could not longer threaten the financial security of the country and its people. Returning to his populist message of earlier in the week, Obama vowed once again to take on Wall Street. "It is going to be a fight, you watch," he said. "I just want to have some rules in place so when these guys make dumb decisions, you don't end up having to foot the bill."

Returning to the theme of health care in his closing remarks, Obama said he understood Americans' apprehensiveness with the bill, given partisan bickering and the slow pace at which it took shape. "The legislative process is messy and people are fearful of that," said Obama, adding that he didn't seek office to shrink from the tough issues the nation faces.
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