During his address before Congress Wednesday, the president share a letter he received from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. (Photo Credit: Pete Souza/Official White House photo distributed via Flickr.com)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama invoked the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on Wednesday, citing a letter in which the senator said that health-care reform "is above all a moral issue."
"'At stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country,'" the president said, quoting the letter which Kennedy had written in May and asked to be delivered after his death.
"I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days - the character of our country," Obama said to a joint session of Congress. "One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government."
Kennedy recognized, however, that with all of the drive of Americans to stand strong, there comes a time when government must step in to help, Obama said.
"When fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand," the president said, citing "a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would call out anyone who misrepresents what's in his health care plan.
The president told a joint session of Congress that he would listen to a "serious set of proposals" from Democrats or Republicans, but would not "waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it."
"I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are," he said. "If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday directed his administration to set up demonstration projects in several states to move toward medical malpractice reform, throwing a bone to Republicans who have long called for tort reform to bring down health care costs.
"I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs," the president said to a joint session of Congress.
He proposed demonstration projects - considered by the Bush administration - "on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine."
Mention of the issue prompted applause from the Republican side of the chamber.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised that any health-care bill approved by Congress won't increase the federal deficit.
In a joint speech to Congress, Obama repeated past statements that savings in the existing health-care system would cover most of the cost of an overhaul bill.
He also sought to ensure the elderly that cutting costs and finding savings in the Medicare program for senior citizens won't diminish the level of service currently provided. In particular, he said that "not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund" would pay for the bill.
However, Obama provided few details of how that would happen, saying the plan would eliminate "unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies" and create an independent commission of doctors and medicalexperts
to identify further waste.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended his proposal for government-run public health insurance as an option for consumers, saying it would force private insurers lower costs.
But Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress, called the provision one alternative for increasing competition for health insurance and signaled his openness to alternatives.
"I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice," he said, without specifying the public option. "And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need."
Republicans are unanimous in opposing a public option, calling it an unfair competitor that would drive private insurers from the market and lead to a government takeover of health insurance. Obama rejected that claim as a false allegation intended to scare people.
"Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance," he said. "No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday that all Americans would be required by law to have health insurance under legislation he is proposing for congressional approval.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Obama said the requirement would be similar to mandatory auto insurance in most states and also would require businesses to either offer health-care coverage to workers or contribute to covering their costs of obtaining coverage.
"There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements," Obama said. "But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees.
"Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House has released President Obama's plan for health care reform.
The White House has released the full text of President Obama's speech to Congress:
Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and the American people:
When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.
As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.
I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who have taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.
But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future – and that is the issue of health care.
I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.
Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.
(CNN)–Two senior officials tell CNN the president is planning to invite centrist Senate Democrats to the White House tomorrow to immediately try to get the key fence-sitters into a room and try to start working them. CNN has also learned Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met with more than a dozen of these centrist Democraic senators on the Hill this afternoon, including Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court heard new arguments Wednesday in a dramatic case that started with a movie attacking Hillary Clinton - but that could have far-reaching implications for U.S. elections.
"If you thought you knew everything about Hillary Clinton, wait till you see the movie," said an ad last year for "Hillary: The Movie," a scorching attack on the woman then running for president.
Citizens United, the conservative group behind the film, promoted it as featuring 40 interviews - a "cast to end all casts"– and promised that if "you want to hear about the Clinton scandals of the past and present, you have it here! 'Hillary: The Movie' is the first and last word in what the Clintons want America to forget!"
Few Americans ever saw the ad; a federal court ruled that it broke the law on campaign advertising.