CLEVELAND (AP) — Dogged by the botched enrollment launch of his health care law, President Barack Obama on Thursday sought to put the spotlight on his economic and energy agenda, touting increased automobile fuel efficiency for helping reduce reliance on foreign oil.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the U.S. produced more oil at home in October than it imported from abroad. Obama called the shift "a huge competitive advantage" for the United States.
The president spoke at a Cleveland plant that makes steel used for higher fuel-efficient cars. Obama says the comeback of the auto industry during his presidency helped the ArcelorMittal plant and saved more than 1 million American jobs.
"We've got to do more to get those engines of the economy churning even faster," Obama said. "But because we've been willing to do some hard things, not just kick the can down the road, factories are reopening their doors, businesses are hiring new workers."
The president was highlighting some of the positive notes in the still sluggish economic recovery even as problems with the health care law were the focus Thursday in Washington.
Obama announced earlier in the day from the White House that insurance companies would have the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled. The announcement was meant to meet an Obama promise, ultimately unmet for millions, which assured Americans that they would be able to keep their coverage if they liked it.
"We are not going to gut this law. We will fix what needs to be fixed, but we're going to make the Affordable Care Act work," Obama said.
Still, even in Cleveland, Obama had to acknowledge the health care law's flawed launch. But he also struck a defiant tone in the face of calls from Republicans to undo the law.
"We will fix what needs to be fixed, but we're going to make the Affordable Care Act work," he said. "And those who say they're opposed to it and can't offer a solution, we'll push back.
In a bright spot for Obama, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is one of a few Republican governors to take advantage of the law's Medicaid expansion to reach more low-income Americans.
"The governor didn't do it because he just loves me so much," Obama said. "If every Republican governor did what Kasich did here rather than play politics about it, you'd have another 5.4 million Americans who could get access to health care next year regardless of what happens with the website."
Later, at a fundraiser in Philadelphia, Obama again could not ignore the troubled state of his health care law.
"I've got three years left in this office," he said. Then he drew laughs by listing his remaining goals with this preface: "in addition to fixing a website...."
The fundraiser was for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and was at the home of Comcast executive David Cohen. Tickets for the event ranged from $10,000 to $32,400. Cohen said the event raised $1 million.