Earlier today, President Obama made a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing. (Watch it and read the full transcript on DKTV or view it at the bottom of this post.)
Here's a brief summary of some of the major topics he covered:
Bipartisanship: During the briefing, President Obama offered his wholehearted embrace of bipartisanship, but before you go jump off a cliff, he made it clear that to him bipartisanship doesn't mean caving into Republican demands on every single issue. President Obama said bipartisanship meant finding common ground where possible, and not letting petty partisan politics get in the way of progress on important issues. He acknowledged that both parties won't always agree on substantive policy issues, and he said that was a healthy thing, but came down hard against politically motivated obstruction such as the abuse of "holds" on his administration's appointees. "I won’t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party, but I also won’t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that’s rooted not in substantive disagreements but in political expedience," he said. "We talked about this as well, particularly when it comes to the confirmation process."
Recess appointments: President Obama condemned the abuse of "holds" on White House nominations, singling out Shelby's "blanket hold." President Obama criticized such practices as petty politics and said they were getting in the way of governing. If the practice does not cease, he said he would be forced to use so-called recess appointments to get around Senate obstructionism. "If the Senate does not act — and I made this very clear — if the Senate does not act to confirm these nominees, I will consider making several recess appointments during the upcoming recess, because we can’t afford to allow politics to stand in the way of a well-functioning government."
Deficits: President Obama continued his focus on reducing the budget deficit, but instead of buying into the Republican framework on "cutting spending," he emphatically pointed to the biggest long-term structural budget problem: health care. "Everybody out there who talks about deficits has to acknowledge that the single biggest driver of our deficits is health care spending," he said. "We cannot deal with our deficits and debt long term unless we get a handle on that. So that has to be part of a package."
Health care reform: President Obama said he remained committed to seeing health care reform pass into law, outlining his three key goals: (1) Reduce costs, both for government programs and families and business; (2) Provide consumer protections so that nobody can be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition; and (3) expanding coverage to insure more Americans. Obama said he was willing to "start from scratch" in the sense that he would once again give Republicans the opportunity to offer proposals to accomplish those goals, but that without a serious plan to accomplish the goals of health care reform, Republicans would effectively be choosing to stand on the sidelines. "What I will not do, what I don’t think makes sense and I don’t think the American people want to see," he said, "would be another year of partisan wrangling around these issues; another six months or eight months or nine months worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there’s a lot of posturing."
Watch the briefing (transcript):