WASHINGTON (CNN) - With the White House deadline for congressional passage of his health care agenda just weeks away, President Obama and the GOP faced off on the issue Saturday.
High-profile White House events this week made the hard sell for the plan currently being considered by Congress. On Friday, a bipartisan group of half a dozen senators asked the president to slow the pace, and relax the summer timeline he’s given Congress to act.
In his radio and Web address broadcast Saturday - titled "Health Care Reform Cannot Wait" - Obama resisted that effort, and shot back at critics of his plan.
“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,” said the president. “And I know that once you’ve seen enough ads and heard enough people yelling on TV, you might begin to wonder whether there’s a grain of truth to what they’re saying. So let me take a moment to answer a few of their arguments.”
He argued that, despite what his critics said, he would not sign any bill that increased the deficit, that his plan would not result in government control over anyone’s health care or insurance choices, and that there would be no rationing of medical care.
Republicans were equally firm Saturday, saying they are going to fight the proposal and push for a cheaper bill – and called for Democrats to put the brakes on the move for summer passage.
"They propose to pay for this new Washington-run health care system by dramatically raising taxes on small business owners," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said in the Republican Web and radio address broadcast Saturday. "With a shaky economy and the need for new jobs, the last thing the president and the Congress should do is impose new taxes on America's small businesses."
“…the President and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through. 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.”
Other elements of the president’s agenda, like the stimulus package and the energy bill, have passed with minimal or non-existent GOP support. And Democrats have since gained a 60th vote in the Senate, the number required to stave off a filibuster.
But it remains an open question whether the party can hold on to the support of enough of its own members to pass the president’s vision for a major overhaul of the nation’s health care system. Moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats have found themselves in the crosshairs, facing political pressure from both sides of the debate, along with millions of dollars of targeted ads.