At the same time, Obama was critical of Republican opponents who he said were trying to block an overhaul of the nation's heath care system for political gain.
"I believe that we will have enough votes to pass not just any health care bill, but a good health care bill that helps the American people, reduces costs, actually over the long-term controls our deficit. I'm confident that we've got that," Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes. "There are those in the Republican party who think the best thing to do is just to kill reform. That that will be good politics."
Obama has retaken the offensive on his key domestic policy issue, most notably with a speech last week to both houses of Congress. And sought to turn down the heat over a government-run health insurance plan.
"The public option is only a means to that end and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal," he said.
Obama is trying to push opposing lawmakers away from positions - both left and right - that were threatening stalemate. That's what happened when Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, tried to push through an overhaul in the 1990s.
Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, drove home that point again Sunday.
The president "prefers the public option," Gibbs said. "However, he said what's most important is choice and competition."
And Sen. Olympia Snowe, the Maine Republican who could be the party's only senator who votes with Democrats, believes choice and competition can be ensured without the public option.
"It's not on the table. And it won't be," she said Sunday. "We'll be using the co-op as an option at this point, as the means for injecting competition in the process," she said."
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