President Barack issued a clear defense of the comprehensive healthcare
reform bills pending in Congress, vowing to keep pushing the
legislation and asking lawmakers not to abandon the effort.
“After nearly a century of trying, we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans,” Obama said.
Obama asserted to anxious Democratic lawmakers that in spite of political setbacks, such as the loss of a Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts to Republican Scott Brown, they were obligated to act on healthcare and other tough issues.
“Democrats, I remind you we still have the largest majority in decades and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills.”
Obama also made a personal commitment to put his weight behind a comprehensive healthcare bill based on the legislation already approved by the House and Senate. “I took on healthcare because of the stories I’ve heard from Americans,” Obama said. “I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.”
Obama acknowledged that healthcare reform, which just weeks ago seemed on track for swift final action, has entered troubled waters – and he acknowledged that the drawn-out debate has damaged his administration and his party.
“By now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on healthcare because it was good politics,” Obama said.
“The longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people and I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering, ‘What’s in it for me?’” he said.
Though Obama did not lay out a legislative strategy to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills he praised the plans themselves. Some Democratic lawmakers have weighed passing a scaled-down bill or breaking the legislation up into small measures.
Obama also asked the American people to reconsider the healthcare bills passed by the House and Senate. “As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed,” he said, touting its potential to expand coverage, ban insurance company practices such as refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and reduce the deficit.