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Obama derides 'tendency toward inertia'

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Michelle Perry
President Obama continued to use the bully pulpit today to try and push health-care reform.

He urged that the time is now to pass health-care reform and said he knows that there is "a tendency toward inertia" in Washington.

As we've noted previously, the White House is butting up against the August rececss for both chambers to pass its own bills. It would be advantageous for the White House to get bills out before that recess, because there is a risk that moderate Democrats and Republicans -- who might have voted for reform -- go home, hear complaints from (their loudest) constituents and then rescind support.

VIDEO: Pushing for health care: July 20: With time running out before Congress takes recess, can President Barack Obama hold on to his self-imposed August deadline despite strong criticism from inside his own party? Nancy Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, discusses.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told NBC's Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports that there has been "steady" but "slow" progress in the Finance Committee on its bill. "There is progress being made," Grassley said.

The Finance Committee represents perhaps the last, best chance for the White House to get health reform passed.

The House bill got a shot in the arm when the American Medical Association endorsed it last week. But it took a hit when the Congressional Budget Office's chief said it would bend the cost curve upward not downward.

The president has said he wants it to be deficit neutral, and anything short of that, would be difficult to reconcile politically.

Grassley acknowledged the key role the committee is playing.

Video: The Senate Finance Committee is still working on a compromise care bill that committee chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is hoping will gain Republican support. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, discusses.

"Bending the curve downward is going to happen in the Senate Finance Committee," he said, "or they aren't going to do it."

It does appear they are close, however. Grassley said his staff and Chairman Max Baucus' (D-MT) have been in ongoing negotiations and that they are making progress.

Grassley said there is a $200 billion hole that has to be plugged before the committee can unveil its plan. He expressed frustration with the limited revenue streams that exist -- and that are acceptable to all sides -- to pay for it. Where's it going to come from? "I don't have an answer for you except that we're looking," Grassley said.

Grassley said -- without hesitation -- that the so-called House surtax is "definitely off the table," he said. "It hurts small business."

The House surtax would raise taxes on the highest income earners -- those making more than $280,000 per year.

Nancy-Ann Deparle, director of the White House Office of health reform, she is confident health care would happen on the president's timeline.

"I definitely think we can make it," Deparle told Mitchell.

Deparle said she will be talking to Baucus later today on the committee's progress. She added that the Montana senator is on board to make health reform happen.