By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer
July 18, 2009
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama told the nation Saturday that his health care overhaul is financially sound and Congress should not squander the chance to make meaningful change. Republicans didn't relent in their criticism of his plan as a costly burden unwisely on a fast track.
For a sixth straight day, Obama sought to keep the focus on his chief domestic priority in the face of mounting resistance on Capitol Hill, including conservative Democrats. White House officials are worried they face a tougher road to passage than anticipated.
"This is what the debate in Congress is all about: whether we'll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under and more Americans lose their coverage," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Or whether we'll seize this opportunity — one we might not have again for generations — and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009."
Through the week, Obama tried to project confidence about his approach to cover millions of uninsured people. During a private meeting with Jewish leaders on Monday, he joked that the only thing more difficult than passing health care legislation might be negotiating Mideast peace.
At a late scheduled White House appearance Friday, he appealed to lawmakers not to "lose heart" and asked for deeper cost cuts to calm concern over the huge expense.
Republicans were not swayed.
"The president and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. "Why? Because the more Americans know about it, the more they oppose it. Something this important needs to be done right, rather than done quickly."
Two House committees on Friday approved their parts of the bill over Republican objections. That left one more to act. But Democrats facing tough re-election bids or representing conservative districts demanded additional measures to hold down costs.
Given the complexities, as well as fresh calls for delay in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened the door to pushing off a vote beyond the early August timeline that she and Obama laid out weeks ago. Pelosi long has said the House would vote before lawmakers leave on vacation at the end of July. Now she hedged for the first time.
"We have to see what the Senate will do," she said, before suggesting that changing the bill to produce more savings might require additional time.
It will take a lot to convince Republicans, nearly united in opposing the Democrats' plan.
"It would empower Washington — not doctors and patients — to make health care decisions and would impose a new tax on working families during a recession," Kyl said in the GOP's weekly address. "They propose to pay for this new Washington-run health care system by dramatically raising taxes on small business owners."
Kyl, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said his party's proposed alternatives should be considered.
"These changes do not require government takeover of the health care system, or massive new spending, job-killing taxes or rationing of care," he said, seeking to string together the biggest fears of Obama's plan to challenge the popular president.
Obama rejected the criticism out of hand.
"Now, we know there are those who will oppose reform no matter what," Obama said. "We know the same special interests and their agents in Congress will make the same old arguments and use the same scare tactics that have stopped reform before because they profit from this relentless escalation in health care costs."
Obama also repeated his pledge that his plan would not add to the federal deficit or deny patients' choices.
"Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story," he said.
That's a pledge, however, beyond Obama's control. His plan leaves companies free to change their health plans in ways that workers may not like or to drop insurance altogether.
On the Net:
Obama address: http://www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/user/gopweeklyaddress
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The Health Care Debate Continues ...
Obama: Don't squander chance to reform health care