November 7th, 2009
01:39 PM ET
9 years ago

'This is our moment,' Obama says of health care reform

Washington (CNN) - Calling it the chance of a generation, President Barack Obama Saturday urged lawmakers in the House of Representatives to pass pending health care legislation "that the American people urgently need."

"Millions of Americans are watching right now," the president told reporters in a brief news conference in the White House Rose Garden. "Their families and businesses are counting on us. After all, this is why they sent us here: to finally confront the challenges that Washington had been putting off for decades. To make their lives better. To leave this country stronger than we found it."

Obama's comments came shortly after he had returned to the White House from Capitol Hill, where he met with the House Democratic leadership.

The president said he reminded lawmakers "that opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation. Most public servants pass through their entire careers without a chance to make as important a difference in the lives of their constituents and the life of this country.

"This is their moment, this is our moment, to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us - even when it's hard; especially when it's hard. This is our moment to deliver.

"I urge members of Congress to rise to this moment. Answer the call of history, and vote yes for health insurance reform for America," Obama said.

Lawmakers emerging from that meeting appeared confident that their health care legislation would pass the vote scheduled for Saturday evening.

"Today we will make not only history, but progress for America's working families," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters assembled outside the meeting room.

"We're on the cusp of making an historical decision on behalf of the American people," added House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.

A senior Democratic aide quoted the president as saying during the meeting that he was "absolutely confident that you guys will get this done."

"Absolutely confident that when I sign this in the Rose Garden, each and every one of you will be able to look back and say 'this was my finest moment in politics,'" the aide quoted Obama as saying.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said the president made the case that Congress has a historic opportunity today to provide stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage for those who don't and bring down the cost of health care for families, small businesses and the government.

Burton also reported that Obama told the Democratic lawmakers that they had made more progress on comprehensive reform than any administration and any Congress in the past 70 years, and that they should take this historic opportunity to pass health care reform so that he can sign a bill by the end of this year.

"Now is the time to finish the job," the president said in the Rose Garden. "The bill that the House has produced will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don't; and lower costs for American families and American businesses."

The Democratic leadership meeting with the president took place as debate on the nearly $1.1 trillion bill began in a special Saturday session in the House.

Later in the day, anti-abortion Democrats will introduce an amendment to the measure that would ban most abortion coverage from the public option and other insurance providers in the new so-called "exchange" the legislation would create, three Democratic sources told CNN.

The prohibition would exclude cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger.

Several anti-abortion Democrats will offer the amendment, including Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan.

House Minority leader John Boehner told reporters after debate on the legislation had begun that the GOP leadership strongly supports that amendment.

"We believe taxpayer funding of abortion is wrong, and we will do everything we can to stop that from happening, by passing the Stupak amendment," he said.

The fact that the amendment will be allowed to be proposed is a big win for anti-abortion Democrats and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which used its power - especially with conservative Democrats in swing congressional districts - to help force Democratic leaders to permit a vote that most of them oppose.

"We didn't have a choice," said a Democratic leadership source. "We didn't have the votes" on health care without agreeing to this.

Planned Parenthood decried the amendment, saying it would result in the elimination of abortion coverage currently offered by most private health insurance plans.

"This amendment would violate the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all by creating a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and modest incomes," the group said in a statement.

"Women won't stand for legislation that takes away their current benefits and leaves them worse off after health care reform than they are today."

The Democratic sources said people would be able to purchase riders with their own money for insurance that includes abortion coverage.

Stupak and other anti-abortion Democrats have argued for a strict abortion ban for some time.

However, Ellsworth had offered a less strict compromise measure that would have prohibited taxpayer dollars for abortions.

But Liz Farrar, a spokeswoman for Ellsworth, told CNN that some two dozen Democratic lawmakers made it clear that they needed assurances from the Catholic bishops before they could sign on - and that the religious group made clear it wanted to bolster the abortion restrictions.

As Stupak offered the amendment before the House Rules Committee overnight, several abortion rights activists on the panel argued the amendment goes too far.

"I find this amendment very, very uncomfortable," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts.

"I foresee for poor women in America, a return to the dark ages," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida.

Adding to the mix are members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who staunchly oppose adding a provision to the bill that would bar undocumented workers from using their own money to buy health insurance policies available
through the exchange.

The measure is already included in the Senate Finance Committee's version of the bill, and is backed by the White House. Some conservative House Democrats have also indicated their support for the Senate language.

Several Hispanic Caucus members who discussed the issue with Pelosi Friday said they had received assurances the Senate language would not be included. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, warned Thursday that several caucus members might try to block the House bill if it's changed to conform to the Senate measure.

Pelosi's bill currently includes various requirements for immigrants to verify their citizenship before getting federal subsidies to buy health insurance. Conservatives, however, have called the requirements insufficient.

Many conservatives, particularly on the Republican side of the aisle, also continued Friday to raise questions about the overall cost of the bill.

"The speaker's bill includes job-killing taxes and mandates that will hurt small businesses," Boehner said Friday. "For the sake of our families and small businesses, this job-killing bill needs to be defeated."

But some so-called Blue Dog Democrats are among those who intend to vote "no," including Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-South Dakota, and Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Maryland.

"The overall cost of it is substantial," Kratovil told CNN.

The House bill would extend insurance coverage to 36 million uncovered Americans and guarantee that 96 percent of Americans have coverage, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Among other things, the bill would subsidize insurance for poorer Americans, establish a new government-run public option and create health insurance exchanges to make it easier for small groups and individuals to purchase coverage. It would also cap annual out-of-pocket expenses and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Pelosi's office has said the bill would cut the federal deficit by roughly $30 billion over the next decade. The measure is financed through a combination of a tax surcharge on wealthy Americans and spending constraints in Medicare and Medicaid.

The bill received a major boost Thursday when it was endorsed by AARP and the American Medical Association.

AARP, the nation's largest organization of older Americans, is a non-partisan group that advocates for people over the age of 50. The AMA, historically an opponent of health care reform, is considered one the nation's most influential doctors' advocacy groups.

Updated: 2:41 p.m.

–CNN's Dana Bash, Elaine Quijano, Lisa Desjardins, Alan Silverleib, Paul Steinhauser and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Filed under: Health care • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Douglas Weeks

    Let the American public see the bill with explanation before any vote

    November 7, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  2. Audrey in Georgia

    Thank you President Obama for standing and delivering all that you can
    for the sake of the American people. To the House and Senate
    Democrats, do not be afraid. You are doing the right thing for every
    American. Do not delay, do not dither! Make health care reform happen
    now! "Do not be afraid of change. Instead be afraid of not changing."

    November 7, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. Enough

    Savor your moment, Obama is a one term president or more clearly he is Jimmy Carters second term. Cram this crap down our throats while you can, you know you're outta here.

    November 7, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. JP

    "This is our moment" Obama's right if your a trial lawyer, an illegal who who taxpayers will subsidize after Obama fulfills his promise of a path to citizenship, or a socialist. Mr. President why are he lawyers more important than the taxpayers. How much less would the cost be with medical malpractice tort reform.

    November 7, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. John NY Independent

    get a good plan and it will be. This is no good!

    November 7, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    When it comes to healthcare and helping others, my employment does not mean I do not still feel empathy for those less fortunate, those dealing with addictions, infants brought into a horrible situation, simply because of the action of their birth. I have not become cynical that everyone in need of help is a parasite sucking the life out of the tax payer.

    I gladly pay my share of taxes and have never complained. not even about school taxes just because I have no children, I only complain when I see the money I do send to D.C. is not being used wisely.

    My life is not as rigid as conservatives that like black or white and absolutes. Guess that is why you believe the Holy Book of Fables is God's word, it seems to be so easy to set the rigid lines and bible thump for proof. Conservative "christians" cannot see life outside the defined lines they have restricted themselves to living within.

    This liberal heathen, likes living in the gray areas, it reminds me constantly how blessed I have been, but at the same time I never turn a blind eye to those that have chosen a different path, because there but for the grace of God go I.

    November 7, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  7. Randall in Torrance, CA - Author of "I'm a Barbie girl in a not-so-Barbie world" comment

    Go get 'em President Obama! Screw the GOP because they have screwed the middle-class for 200+ years. America was founded on the priniple of hard work, killing Indians, and rewarding the wealthy regardless of how corrupt they are or who they step on to attain un-Godly prosperity.

    November 7, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. The luster is gone....gone

    O'bama is awesome on long rhetoric and pathetic and short on action

    Yes O'bama's magic is all gone...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 7, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Hannibal Lector

    I hope he has a moment of something he can change. BUT I DOUBT HIM DOING ANYTHING WORTHWHILE.

    November 7, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. Really?

    This is "his" moment and everyone knows it. Please just tax us all back to the dark ages and leave my healthcare ALONE!

    November 7, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Let's do it for Teddy!

    November 7, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Yep, this is your moment to do your best–to complete the ruin of the American economy.

    Only 42% of American voters (Rasmussen) support this imbecilic legislation–there's no way it should even have gotten this far.

    November 7, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. File under "Sarcasm"

    Yes, this is the Democrats' moment. The moment that could be remembered as the biggest blunder in US history if they pass a healthcare bill that destroys the already weak economy.

    None of the benefits of the plan come into play for years while it immediately raises taxes and fees to keep the 10 year cost artificially low. But even with this accounting slight of hand, that cost is projected at over $10 trillion that you and I and our children will have to pay for. If you can afford that, please send me a couple million in "spare change."

    November 7, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Albo58

    This is THEIR moment to ignore the wishes of the majority of Americans and commit theft of tax dollars on the largest scale to date! All that vote for this garbage bill need to start polishing up their resumes for the very near future!

    November 7, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. Proud American

    Make it so!!!!

    November 7, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. Dan

    We want a Public Option!!!! GOBAMA!!!!

    November 7, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. Lois

    The President is correct now is the time to deliver for the Democrats..They to get off their high horses and take care business thats what we elected them to do.
    The healthcare debate has gone on long enough. Nobody in congress can say with a clear consience that its right not to give all Americans affordable health care.

    November 7, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. C Morse

    This is his moment to kill the Constitution as he feels it is outdated! The government is now forcing people to purchase goods which is no where to be found in the constitution. If we allow this to happen, then the government take over will continue. Then we will see more strong handed measures by this corrupt Congress and President.

    This is communism at it's finest – what a nice legacy to pass on to our children and their children. No longer will it be "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", your life will be owned, liberty by tyranny, and happiness for those in power. I am disgusted at my fellow Americans who sit back with their hands reached out to the government allowing this to happen.

    November 7, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. Kendall

    How fast will the uninsured and the sick spend $5 billion dollars? That's my only question. Think of all the people who abuse the system that won't pay into the system long term. They'll buy the coverage then drop it after there hernia surgery or something like that.

    November 7, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  20. m jeff

    If the Democrats wait for the Republicans to get something done,it will never get done. The Republicans are going to vote no anyway, I say vote for reform without them.

    November 7, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  21. pa independent and fiscally responsible

    This is a historic moment. The moment government takes over our economy and america ceases to exist as our forefathers envisioned. I am truly saddened by this and wonder why no one knows the definition of reform vs the government takeover of another industry. Reform is what we need not Obama care!Economist report next spring the economy will take another hit. How do the dems expect the few who actually pay taxes to cover this bill and all their other handouts? It isn't coming from the wealthy...they can legally manipulate their money to avoid just this. Warren Buffet was dead serious when he stated "his assistant pays more taxes than he does".
    Thank you Pelosi, Obama and Reid for the destruction of this society!

    November 7, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. Dex Houston TX

    Mr. President, I am behind you 100%, we just want you to "Get Er Done!"
    Wow, I have been in Texas way too long.

    November 7, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. Jeremy

    It is interesting that this administration is more concerned about health care reform than the economy. 10.2% of the American people are currently unemployed, the highest amount in 26 years. Yes, 1983 was the last year that unemployment was that high. Reagan was president then, cleaning up the mess that Carter left when he lost in 1980. This administration should focus more on the economy than a $1.1 trillion health care bill that could bankrupt our economy and will not take full effect until 2013. The longer they put off fixing the economy, the longer it will take to fix it. By fix it, I mean cutting taxes for small businesses. This will allow businesses to start hiring again and the job market will recover. Taxing small businesses would kill more jobs and a recovery would be nearly impossible. Hopefullly they get the message and start fixing the economy because, if not, we face a very long road indeed.

    November 7, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  24. PAUL

    Nothing ever gets done if a Republican is involved.

    November 7, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Lannie

    Republicans can find fault with anything and everything. We need to get this resolved with or without them. The GOP has become useless.

    November 7, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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