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Health debate takes national stage

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By The Staff

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama argued Thursday that a sweeping overhaul of the nation's broken health care system is imperative for the nation's future economic vitality, clashing in an extraordinary live-on-TV summit with Republicans who want far more modest changes. "We believe we have a better idea," declared GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander.

With the marathon policy debate available from start to finish to a divided public, Obama cast the health care crisis as "one of the biggest drags on our economy," painting his overhaul effort as critical to the economic revival that's even more pressing to many Americans.

"We all know that this is urgent," he said.

Obama lamented the partisan bickering that has resulted in a stalemate over legislation to extend coverage to more than 30 million people who are now uninsured. "Politics I think ended up trumping practical common sense," he said.

And yet, even as he pleaded for cooperation — and "actually a discussion, and not just us trading talking points" — he insisted on a number of Democratic points and acknowledged agreement may not be possible. "I don't know that those gaps can be bridged," Obama said. "If not, at least we will have better clarified for the American people what the debate is all about."


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