Obama asks lawmakers for ‘courage’ on health

In a speech in Strongsville, Ohio, Obama told lawmakers to focus not on political opinion polls or the November election, but rather, the people who would be positively impacted by healthcare reform.

Too many people are “talking about what this means for November,” Obama said. “Talking about the poll numbers for the Democrats and the Republicans.

“We need courage.”

He specifically called on Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to vote for the Senate healthcare bill, which the House is expected to take up by this weekend. Kucinich voted against the healthcare bill the House approved in November and opposes the Senate bill.

The crowd also implored Kucinich to vote for the bill. Kucinich, who traveled with Obama to the event on Air Force Once, dislikes the Senate bill because it does not contain a public insurance option.

When asked by a reporter on the tarmac near the president's plane if he would change his vote, Kucinich demurred.

But when asked if he was reconsidering his vote, Kucinich said: "I'm looking forward to hearing what [Obama] has to say.”

Obama’s speech was given near the hometown of Natoma Canfield, a cancer patient who has seen her insurance premiums skyrocket. Obama has made a habit of reading a letter Canfield sent to him to detractors of his reform proposal.

“When you hear people saying that this isn’t the ‘right time’ — think of what she’s going through,” Obama said. “When you hear people talk about who’s up and who’s down in the polls, instead of what’s right or what’s wrong for the country, think of her and the millions of responsible people, working people, being hurt by today’s system of health insurance. And I want you to remember: There but for the grace of God go I.”

The president made his plea as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is pushing for a vote this week and the president's top advisers are boasting that by the end of the week, healthcare reform will be “the law of the land.”

The president, aware of the concerns of seniors who fear the proposal will curb their Medicare benefits, warned seniors in the crowd not to let critics “hoodwink” them.

“Every senior should know: There is no cutting of your guaranteed Medicare benefits. Period. No ifs, ands or buts,” Obama said. “This proposal makes Medicare stronger, makes the coverage better, and makes its finances more secure. Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed — or is trying to misinform you. Don't let ‘em hoodwink you. They're trying to hoodwink you.”

Obama is scheduled to depart for Guam, Indonesia and Australia on Sunday after having delayed his trip to try to win votes for the bill.