Addressing a town hall meeting in Elyria, Ohio, Obama offered a full-throated defense of his signature domestic issue, which threatens to stall in Congress after Massachusetts voters denied Democrats their filibuster-proof Senate majority.
"There are things that have to get done. This is our best chance to do it. We can't keep on putting this off," Obama said, warning listeners that spiraling medical costs threaten to bankrupt them and the country unless Congress acts.
Yet, a weeks-long time-out is just what Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) suggested.
Dodd, who ushered the legislation through the Senate's health committee after the death of his friend, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, said perhaps Obama and lawmakers should "maybe take a breather for a month, six weeks."
"Maybe we do need to take this time. Look, it didn't work, this process," Dodd said, adding that Obama's leadership was needed to get things back on track.
In his remarks, Obama didn't offer specifics on how to move forward, but seemed to pull back from a suggestion he made earlier this week that lawmakers unite behind the elements of the legislation everyone can agree on. Obama said that approach presented problems because some of the popular ideas, like new requirements on insurance companies, couldn't be done without giving many more people access to coverage.
Just a week ago the health legislation appeared on the cusp of passage after Obama threw himself into marathon negotiations with congressional leaders to work out differences between the House and Senate bills. The election of Republican Scott Brown to Kennedy's Senate seat changed all that, leaving congressional Democrats without a clear path forward since they no longer have the votes they need to advance the bill through the Senate.