Obama: Health reform will happen this year

In a last-minute healthcare event at the White House, President Obama did not repeat his desire to see a bill come out of the House and Senate before the August recess but promised health reform will be passed this year.

Obama has been on the offensive this week for his embattled reform proposal as Republicans and even some Democrats have pushed back hard at every turn.

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The decision to hold a Friday afternoon event that contained little new information could be seen as a sign that the White House is worried the debate is slipping away from them.

And with a bipartisan group of senators in open revolt over Obama's August push, the president noticeably did not mention his deadline Friday.

A White House aide said the president is still committed to his desire to see bills come out of the House and Senate by August.

Next week, with the clock ticking, the president will hold a primetime press conference at the White House.

Obama’s remarks on Friday came after his latest meetings with lawmakers at the White House — this time with Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). The president has spent the week inviting members to the mansion to push them on reform.

Despite Obama's omission of the early-August deadline, he promised that "it will happen this year."

"I'm absolutely convinced of that," Obama said.

He got some backing from House leaders on Friday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House would pass a healthcare reform bill before it leaves for the August recess. “We are on our schedule to bring up the legislation before the break,” she said.

But she’ll have to deal with centrist Democrats who are threatening to hold up the legislation in committee.

And the bipartisan group of senators working to hash out an agreement on healthcare reform announced Thursday evening that a deal would not happen this week.

The group spent the day in intense, closed-door negotiations but Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other senators emerged to admit they had not reached consensus.

The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington on Aug. 7 and the Finance Committee remains days away from even scheduling a markup, putting Obama’s deadline in significant danger.

The president acknowledged the tough road ahead.

"Now I realize that the last few miles of any race are the hardest to run," Obama said Friday in the Diplomatic Room. "But I must say now is not the time to slow down, and now is certainly not the time to lose heart."

The president, who began speaking almost an hour after the announced time, said that in the 24-hour news cycle he thought it was a time to "step back" and look at what has been achieved. He focused his remarks on the areas of consensus that lawmakers and stakeholders have reached — like the need for preventative care, a health insurance exchange and the need to simplify and reduce insurance paperwork.

Obama also boasted of the recent endorsements for reform, including one from the American Medical Association.

The president said he believes Congress is committed to passing reform, "so that's why those who are betting against us on getting this done are badly mistaken."

To get it done though, the president said, will require working a lot more hours and "more sleepless nights."

Jeffrey Young contributed to this report.