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Obama: I wanted to fix healthcare site, 'but I don't write code'

By Kathleen Hennessey

2:56 PM EST, November 8, 2013

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NEW ORLEANS -- President Obama vented his frustration with his broken healthcare insurance website Friday, joking that he “wanted to go in and fix it myself but I don’t write code.”

“We’ve had this problem with the website,” Obama told a crowd during a visit to the Port of New Orleans. “I’m not happy about that but we’re working overtime to make sure it gets fixed. I promise.”

The president’s brief comments on his struggling healthcare law came amid a call for bipartisan cooperation on his economic proposals. Obama argued that investment in roads, bridges and ports should gain broad support among Democrats and Republicans seeking to create new jobs.

But he also acknowledged his overhaul of the healthcare system was “controversial.” Republicans are going to continue to fight the law, Obama said, “until it’s working really well and then they’re going to stop calling it Obamacare. They’re going to call it something else.”

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Despite the remarks on the troubled law, Obama's visit was largely an attempt to press pause on steady criticism that has been sinking his approval ratings. Surrounded by cargo containers with massive cranes looming above, Obama used the port on the Mississippi River as a model for infrastructure investment leading to economic growth.

More than $1 billion has been invested in expansion and dredging projects in recent years, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, preparing the port to double its capacity when the newly expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015 and supertankers gain access to southern ports.

Most recently the Obama administration awarded the port $16 million to upgrade its rail system, part of $417 million in grants awarded to ports in the last five years, the White House said.

Obama has asked for much more to improve bridges, roads and ports around the country. In January he called on Congress to approve $50 billion to begin working through a backlog of infrastructure projects. But most of his economic agenda – including a proposal to raise the minimum wage – has gotten little traction in Congress, where the primary focus has been fighting over how much to cut the budget.

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Speaking to 650 people, Obama blamed Washington’s “manufactured crises and self-inflicted wounds” for stifling growth, noting the recent shutdown’s toll on the growth.

The president called on Congress to pass a budget, a farm bill and begin upgrading ports, bridges and highways.

“We should be building not tearing things down,” he said. “We’re falling behind.”

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kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

Twitter: @khennessey