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Obama on Affordable Care Act: 'We're not repealing it as long as I'm president'

Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Barack Obama at a health care event, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, in Washington.

President Barack Obama said his signature health care reform law is going nowhere as long as he's in office, and he'll spend the remainder of his presidency fighting to make it work if necessary.

"Do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you, because it's working better now, and it's just going to keep on working better over time," Obama said at an event at the White House intended to promote the health law and its benefits.

"If I've got to fight another three years to make sure this law works, then that's what I'll do," he defiantly added later.

"We're not repealing it as long as I'm president," Obama said at another point during his remarks, a thinly-veiled reference to repeated Republican attempts to undo or eliminate the law.

The president sought to pivot on Tuesday from weeks' worth of bad headlines focusing on the difficulty in accessing HealthCare.gov, the primary online portal through which consumers can purchase insurance under the federal exchange. A self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline behind him, Obama said the website is now "working well for the vast majority of users."

December is also a crucial time for Obama and the law. Proponents of the Affordable Care Act have always circled this month on the calendar as a crucial month in which they expected enrollment to spike as the end of the year approaches.

President Obama says that the Affordable Healthcare Act is helping people, and if he needs to spend the remainder of his second term making sure the law works, he will.

The administration is now highlighting the website's improved capacity -- 1 million users visited HealthCare.gov on Monday without major issues, and over 380,000 users had visited the site by midday on Tuesday -- in hopes of encouraging Americans to enroll in insurance plans. 

But Obama and Democrats suffered in the polls as scrutiny over the troubled rollout grew. Tuesday's event was meant to turn the public's focus back toward some of the law's benefits, and criticize Republicans for threatening those very benefits should they finally make good on their threat to repeal the law. 

"My main message today is we're not going back," Obama said. "That seems to be the only alternative that Obamacare's opponents have."

Just hours earlier on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, demurred on the question of whether the GOP would produce and vote on its own health care plan next year. Obama challenged Republicans to produce their own health care plan if they found his law so distasteful. 

To that end, Obama also culled stories of Americans who either benefited or stand to benefit from some of the provisions in the law -- like the ban on lifetime caps for benefits, or allowing younger Americans to stay on their parents' plans through age 26.

Perhaps predictably, Republicans in Congress were dissatisfied by Obama's remarks. 

"Another campaign-style event won't solve the myriad problems facing consumers under Obamacare," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said of the president's 12-minute remarks delivered from the White House complex. "The only 'fix' is full repeal followed by step-by-step, patient-centered reforms that drive down costs and that Americans actually want."

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