Obama: 'This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill' - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Obama: 'This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill'


WASHINGTON (ABC) - President Obama said Monday that Congress needs to change abortion-related language in the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives this weekend that includes tougher restrictions on abortion funding but said there is more work to be done before a final piece of legislation gets to his desk.

"I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill," Obama said. "And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.

Saying the bill cannot changed the status quo, the President said "there are strong feelings on both sides" about an amendment passed on Saturday and added to the legislation, "and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."

After a contentious debate, the House passed a health care bill on Saturday that includes a provision banning abortion from being covered in the public insurance option contained in the bill. The bill also prevents women receiving insurance subsidies from purchasing private plans that cover abortion. Liberals in the House Democratic caucus were opposed to these provisions but voted for the overall bill.

In an exclusive television interview in the Map Rom of the White House, Obama told ABC News' Jake Tapper that he was confident that the final legislation will ensure that "neither side feels that it's being betrayed."

"I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices," he said.

Watch more of President Obama's interview with Jake Tapper tonight on World News and Nightline and tomorrow on Good Morning America.

The president was also asked about concerns that the Medicare cuts he proposes to help pay for health care reform would be undone by Congress subsequently, as is often the case with deficit and cost cutting measures.

"Are you willing to pledge that whatever cuts in Medicare are being made to fund health insurance, one third of it, that you will veto anything that tries to undo that?" Tapper asked.

" Yes," the President said. "I actually have said that is important for us to make sure this thing is deficit neutral, without tricks."

Obama: All Necessary Steps Will Be Taken to Prevent Another Tragedy Like Ft. Hood

On Tuesday, Obama will attend a memorial service at Ft. Hood for the 13 killed in last week's shooting. Today he reiterated that the nation is "heartbroken" by what happened there last Thursday, but said there are many questions to be answered.

The president was asked about an ABC news report that intelligence officials learned months ago that Major Malik Nidal Hasan had reached out via the internet to al-Qaeda affiliates, and had passed it into military intelligence though no official actions seem to have been taken. But he wouldn't say directly whether he was concerned that the US government failed to communicate with itself as was seen in the investigation into 9/11.

"We are going to complete this investigation and we're going to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again," he said.

Obama said it was important to let the investigation play itself out so the details as to how and why the rampage happened are known before he comments further.

The President also discussed the results of last week's elections and what they mean for the Democratic Party going into the 2010 midterms, what his administration is doing to stimulate job growth and economic recovery, and where he is in the process of determining a new strategy in Afghanistan.

President Continues to Weigh Afghanistan Strategy Decision

Obama has yet to publicly announce his decision on a new way forward in Afghanistan and is deliberating whether to send more U.S. troops there, as the commander on the ground, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has requested. He will meet again on Wednesday with his top national security advisors to discuss the Afghanistan strategy.

Asked what variables might play into his decision-making that would cause him to not just take General McChrystal's recommendation and implement it, the President said, "keep in mind that I've been asking not only General McChrystal, but all of our commanders who are familiar with the situation, as well as our civilian folks on the ground, a lot of questions that, until they're answered, may -- may create a situation in which we resource something based on faulty premises."

The president described his deliberative process as making "sure that we have tested all the assumptions that we're making before we send young men and women into harm's way, that if we are sending additional troops that the prospects of a functioning Afghan government are enhanced, that the prospects of al Qaeda being able to attack the U.S. Homeland are reduced."

White House Looks for Ways to Stimulate Job Growth

Obama is also under increasing pressure to do more for the economy. The nation's unemployment rate jumped to 10.2 percent in October, the highest rate since 1983. The Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, released last Friday, was worse than expected, showing employers shed 190,000 jobs last month.

The White House is considering new ways to spur job growth, including stimulus projects for infrastructure, federal grants to weatherize homes and businesses, more tax cuts for businesses, and new steps to promote lending.

Last Friday the president signed into law a bill that extended unemployment benefits for up to 20 additional weeks in states hardest hit by the economic downturn and 14 weeks across the rest of the nation.

Obama said the bill will not "just put money into the people's pockets who are receiving the benefits."

"Economists tell us that when these benefits are spent on food or clothing or rent, it actually strengthens our economy and creates new jobs," he said in the Rose Garden after the unemployment numbers were released.

While administration officials continue to hedge on the prospects of a second stimulus package, Obama said last week that he was considering further smaller stimulus measures, with his economic team "looking at ideas such as additional investments in our aging roads and bridges, incentives to encourage families and businesses to make buildings more energy efficient, additional tax cuts for businesses to create jobs, additional steps to increase the flow of credit to small businesses, and an aggressive agenda to promote exports and help American manufacturers sell their products around the world."

But Obama may not have the support to push through such measures. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 57 percent of Americans opposed more deficit spending for stimulus purposes.

Obama Heads to Asia for First Time as President

Obama departs on Thursday for a weeklong trip to Asia, his first as president. He will make stops in Japan, South Korea, Singapore and China, meeting with the leaders of those nations as well as participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Climate change, the global economy and security issues will be high on the president's agenda in all of his bilateral meetings with leaders.

Obama's trip to Asia was delayed by a day so he could travel to Texas for the memorial service at Ft. Hood.

Click here for more on this ABC News exclusive.

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