Critical Condition

Crunch Time

WASHINGTON (CNN) — On the eve of his fourth prime-time news conference, President Barack Obama was working the phones, calling lawmakers involved in the health care talks to push them to embrace reform, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said Wednesday.

It follows the president’s Tuesday meeting with Democrats at the White House, dubbed a “serious working session” where “major progress” was made, Dunn said.

Senior administration officials said the president will not meet with lawmakers Wednesday but was temporarily shifting focus to the discussions with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, the joint news conference with him, and then the prime-time news conference Wednesday. Obama was talking with his advisors and staff throughout the day regarding any updates from Capitol Hill on the state of play in the health care debate.

Aides said the president’s opening statement at the news conference will be approximately seven minutes long. It will focus primarily on health care, but also will be a “report card” on the administration’s accomplishments during the first six months, and where the administration needs to go, aides said. The president was still tinkering with the speech at mid-afternoon, but aides said there were no “holes” in it as such, to put in news of any anticipated legislative “breakthroughs” from Congress.

Officials said Obama will be taking a more hands on approach with members of Congress in the days and weeks to come regarding the health care debate.