President Barack Obama no longer has a deadline for finishing health care legislation, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged Monday.The White House had been adamant last year that Congress finish the bill by the end of 2009. There was also talk late last year that lawmakers would try to get the bill done by Wednesdays State of the Union address.But Gibbs refusal to set a deadline amounted to recognition that the GOP victory in the Massachusetts special Senate election and the end of the Democrats filibuster-proof majority in the Senate had put the legislation into limbo.Gibbs mentioned health care as only one issue of many that Obama will discuss in his State of the Union address. Asked about the apparent downgrading of what was Obamas top domestic priority, Gibbs said, I think when you hear the speech, you won't have to lean forward to hear a discussion about health care. He suggested the issue is still on the agenda.The president believes that the circumstances that led him to undertake greater security for people in their health care costs existed last year, last week and this week, he said.But Gibbs indicated the speech will be focused more on the economy, assisting the middle class and reforming Washington. I think you will see a series of ideas that the president will outline that fall into a few different categories: how to get our economy back on a firmer foundation and how do we create an atmosphere in the private sector that lends itself to more hiring, Gibbs said. What do we do to put our government back on firmer footing with the middle class? And along with that, what ideas do we have for changing the way Washington works so that people in this country feel like the middle class is getting as fair a shake as the special interest.The speech will also include a portion on the battle against terrorism.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.