Obama urges Dem senators to finish the job on healthcare

On healthcare, Obama called on Democrats to handle the legislative process with as much transparency as possible, and said Democrats had make a mistake in not always making meetings on healthcare open.

"The truth of the matter is the process looked painful and messy, but the innumerable hearings that were held did give an opportunity for the product to get refined so that I think the ultimate package ... is better than where we started," the president said.

"At the end of the process, when we were fighting through all of these filibusters so we could try to get it done quickly ... some of that transparency got lost," Obama later added. "And I think we paid a price for it."


The president did not offer specific road maps on how to move either healthcare or financial reform, but reassured Democratic senators that they would be rewarded with reelection if they pass both initiatives.

Obama also urged Senate Democrats not to be discouraged by the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special Senate election last month, breaking the Democrats' 60-vote supermajority.

"[We] went from having the largest Senate majority in a generation to having the second-largest majority in a generation," he said. "If anyone is searching for an answer to the lessons of Massachusetts, I promise you, it's not to do nothing ... We still have to lead."

Obama became heated about several of his nominations that have stalled in the Senate.

He said his nominees are often held up despite the fact they are qualified for the job and enjoy the support of Democrats and Republicans, and that they are blocked by some Republicans because of separate issues.

Speaking about his nominee to helm the General Services Administration, Martha Johnson, Obama said, "Nobody can tell me that there is anything particularly wrong with her.

"I don't know. You guys may know better than I do," he said. "That has to end. It has to end. Let's have a fight about real stuff."

Johnson's nomination is being held by Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) over a dispute about a federal building in Kansas City.

Obama pre-emptively dismissed suggestions that Democrats behaved similarly while they were in the minority, saying that they blocked former President George W. Bush's judicial nominees more selectively.

The president also decried the number of Republican filibusters applied during his first year in the Oval Office. Still, he said, the Senate remained productive over that span.

"We did all this facing enormous procedural obstacles that are unprecedented," he said. "That's 20 years of obstruction packed into just one."

Obama said Democats should seek to work with Republicans, but that the GOP in return must extend a hand.

"I also made it clear we will call them out when they say they want to work with us and we extend a hand and get a fist in return," he said.

Obama singled out Republican senators who co-sponsored legislation to create a fiscal commission but then voted against it on the floor. 

"What I'm not open to is changing positions for short-term political gain," he said.

This story was posted at 10:26 a.m. and updated at 11:39 a.m.