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Despite Health Bill Delays, Obama Sticks With His Timeline

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he expects a final vote on health care reform to occur by mid-October, suggesting he believes delays that have snagged the measure will not alter his original timetable for signing it.

“We won’t even vote on it probably until the end of September or the middle of October,— said Obama, who spoke during a town hall event in Raleigh, N.C.

White House aides said the president was referring to final passage. The president has been angling for a signing ceremony by Oct. 15.

The bill is well off schedule. Neither the House nor the Senate appears likely to take their first votes before the August recess, as had been the plan. An initial vote could occur soon after the House returns in September, but the timing in the Senate will depend on how quickly competing measures in the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees can be reconciled.

Obama suggested that Members could do some catch-up work during the August recess, when he said they would “have more than enough time to read— the legislation.

Obama pledged that his door would be open to lawmakers who want to discuss the legislation — though he also appeared to reveal his frustration with the lengthy process.

“When we come back in September I will be available to answer any questions Members of Congress have,— Obama said. “If they want to come over to the White House and go over it line by line, I will be happy to do that.—

During his prepared remarks, Obama spent a substantial amount of time defending his record on the economy and his spending of nearly $800 billion on a stimulus package, which he said was needed to keep the economy from falling into a depression.

The defense seemed in part designed to counter concern by some — even those in his own party — that it might be unreasonable to embark on a vast new spending program on health care after putting so much money down on the stimulus.

Obama said distrust with the government’s ability to handle its role as an insurer is “the biggest problem— that he faces in selling the health care measure.

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