WASHINGTON (CNN) - A group of fiscally conservative House Democrats announced Wednesday they reached a deal with the chamber's Democratic leaders on a health care reform bill.
Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, speaking for the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, said the agreement calls for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to begin debating the bill later Wednesday, but for no vote by the full House until after the upcoming August congressional recess.
Ross and the Blue Dogs had threatened to derail the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee due to concerns that it cost too much and failed to address systemic problems in the nation's ailing health care industry.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is one of three House committees that needs to pass the bill before it is voted on by the full chamber. The other two committees have already cleared it.
The deal was announced as President Barack Obama hit the road to build more public support for reform, telling a North Carolina audience that a failure to fix the system now will have catastrophic consequences in the years ahead.
If Congress fails to act soon, he warned a Raleigh town hall audience, health costs will double over the next decade, make millions more Americans uninsured, and bankrupt government on both the state and federal level.
The president accused his critics of mischaracterizing his plan as a government takeover of health care.
"No one is talking about some government takeover," he said. "I'm tired of hearing that. ... These folks need to stop scaring everybody."
He also brushed aside criticism that the plan is being rushed through Congress without adequate time for review and debate.
Congressmen will have plenty of time to read the bill, Obama insisted. Noting that Congress won't finish deliberating the legislation until after its August recess, Obama said he'd be willing to invite any representative or senator over to the White House to review the bill "line by line."
The president is slated to make a similar health care pitch later Wednesday to an audience in rural Virginia - a region typically hostile to national Democratic leaders.
Phil Younce, a frozen food clerk at a Kroger supermarket in the town of Bristol, where Obama will speak, told CNN he fears health reform is being rushed, just like the stimulus.
"Like the last package that we pushed through, I think it was too hurried, and a lot of mistakes, a lot of things that shouldn't be," said Younce, who voted for Republican candidate John McCain in the presidential election.
But assistant produce manager Cathy Montgomery, who voted for Obama, said she's excited the president is getting tough with Congress.
"I like the fact that he's stepped up, and he's being aggressive, I really do. I mean, I'm all for that," she said.
Bristol, which is near the Tennessee border, is also where Obama kicked off his general election campaign after defeating Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
Thousands in the area showed up at a health expo offering free medical care over the weekend, exposing a problem all too familiar to doctors in the region.
"Clearly, we all recognize - any physician in the hospital would recognize - that it's a system in crisis," said Dr. Bennett Cowan.
But like most employees at the Kroger supermarket, produce manager Steve Shipplett gets generous health benefits.
Even though he voted for Obama, he's nervous those benefits may be taxed to cover the uninsured. He demanded more specifics from the president.
Obama's "going to have to spit out some numbers and let the public know exactly what it's going to cost them and what they're going to have to give up," he said.
Shipplett added, however, that if the president successfully steps up and sells his plan, then he's willing to step up, too.
"We've got to do something, and if it means me paying these taxes to get this reform through I would begrudgingly do it, yes," he said.
Younce said he is ready to do his share, too.
"No matter what kind of plan you are going to come up with, somebody has to pay for it. So eventually, it comes down to us - the people that's working and paying taxes. We're going to have to pay for it one way or another. I just hope we can come up with a plan that is worth paying for," he said.
– CNN's Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report.
(Updated at 1:30 p.m. with additional information)