WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday vowed to continue pressing for an overhaul of the nation's health care system, despite recent political setbacks.
"So just in case there's any confusion out there, let me be clear. I am not going to walk away from health insurance reform. I'm not going to walk away from the American people," Obama said. "I'm not going to walk away from this challenge. I'm not going to walk away from any challenge. We're moving forward."
Obama's push for health care reform hit a major snag last month after Democrats lost a special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts last month that cost the party its supermajority in the upper chamber.
Obama told the party faithful that this is no time to "lick our wounds and try to hang on," urging them to move forward.
For their part, Republicans have said the health care plan pending in Congress would raise taxes and would do little to cut costs in the nation's health care system. Among other things, GOP members have insisted that tort reform be a part of the national health care overhaul.
The Congressional Budget Office director, Douglas Elmendorf, has said as much as $54 billion could be saved over the next 10 years if Congress enacts legal reforms including a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering and a $500,000 cap on punitive damages and restricting the statute of limitations on malpractice claims.
In his speech, Obama also defended fellow Democrats' efforts to jumpstart the lagging national economy.
"Everything we've done over the past year has been not only to right our economy, to break the back of this recession, but also to restore some of the security middle-class families had felt slipping away for over a decade now," Obama said.
Obama, trying to rouse his party, made the remarks in an address at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting in Washington, where he told attendees that much of what he said Democrats have accomplished so far in this first term has been without the help of Republicans.
"Some of the steps we took were done without the help of the other party, which made a political decision all too often to jump in the back seat, let us do the driving, and then critique whether we were taking the right turns," Obama said in his 20-minute speech.
Obama's speech came on the heels of a U.S. Labor Department report indicating that the national unemployment rate had dropped from 10 percent to 9.7 percent last month.
In the national weekly Republican address, U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, took aim at Democrats over the newly-released unemployment figure. He said Democrats last year promised unemployment would remain below 8 percent with the help of their economic stimulus legislation.
"Americans are still asking, 'Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs?' But all they are getting from Washington is more spending, more taxes, more debt and more bailouts," Hensarling said Saturday.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.