Washington (CNN) - Activists ratcheted up the pressure for health care reform Tuesday, picketing in front of a hotel where a group of insurance industry leaders were meeting.
More than 1,000 protesters, including representatives of organized labor, marched through downtown Washington before stopping in front of the Ritz Carlton, site of the annual conference of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an insurance industry lobbying group.
"We're fired up (and) can't take no more," the marchers chanted as they unfurled an oversized roll of yellow police tape emblazoned with the words "corporate crime scene."
They were led by, among others, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a prominent backer of reform legislation.
The protest came one day after President Barack Obama tore into health insurance companies for recent rate hikes. The administration "will continue to make a forceful case" for reform in the days ahead, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has asked to address the AHIP conference later this week, Gibbs noted. The secretary would likely also discuss the issue of recent rate increases, he added.
The increasingly heated populist rhetoric, according to many analysts, is part of a strategy to pressure wavering Democrats to back the president's sweeping reform plan.
Obama has called for a final up or down vote in Congress within the next few weeks. No Republicans are expected to vote for the nearly $1 trillion package.
"The Republicans are ... proving themselves the party of 'no,'" declared Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate.
A handful of protesters were escorted away by law enforcement officials.
Gibbs said last week he expects the House to approve the Senate bill by March 18. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, however, pushed back against the idea of next week's deadline, telling reporters that "none of us has mentioned the 18th, other than Mr. Gibbs."
"We are trying to do this as soon as possible," Hoyer said. "That continues to be our objective."
After the House acts, according to Democratic sources, a separate package of changes designed in part to make the overall measure more palatable to House liberals would then be approved by both chambers - getting through the Senate under a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation. Bills passed under reconciliation require only a bare Senate majority of 51 votes.
Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-seat Senate supermajority with the election of Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown in January.
Only 25 percent of Americans believe Congress should pass the health care bill Democratic leaders have been working on for the past year, according to a February 12-15 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. But the survey also noted that Americans overwhelmingly approve of many of the bill's specific provisions.
Obama on Monday dismissed concerns over any political fallout tied to the health care issue.
"The issue here is not the politics of it," he said. Congress and the president were sent to Washington to "solve the big challenges."
–CNN's Paul Courson, Deirdre Walsh and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.
Well the country is broke. The Republicans have the right Ideas. Let people buy health insurance from other states and Tort reform. It's for free, Give it a year or two and let's see what happens! Use the money to attack the deficit. Is this Administration Stoopid or is it me?
Attack these capitalists!
Yehhh... they dare making money and the president said they are stealing our health!
America the land of missed-opportunities!
And next all the unemployed that Bunning screwed need to make their voices heard as well!
When 25 % want the health care but many more approve of parts, this tells me the government needs to listen to the public , scrap this bill they want to jam down our throats and address this issue one piece at a time. I want reform but I do not want what Obama and Pelosi offer. I also want those leaders buying votes to be impeached/tried for their illegal actions.
Once again this is what passes as news, is CNN so desperate to gain readership of its website that this is what must be posted on its website. Republican, democrat, libertarian who cares about this, where is the deep understanding of issues that news reporters should be pursuing? Whats next CNN? I hear verizon has a new purple balckberry hitting the market. Maybe you could cover this in depth rather than covering a real story.
Were any (I'm For The Little Man, Vote For Me), republicans in the picket area. I don't think so. They may come out in support of the insurance companys, and the C.E.O's, but not for you, the consumer.
Where have these people been for the last year and a half when the president has been bombarded with every form of negative from the "tea partiers' to the entire Repub.. party?What happened? Did they finally learn to read so that they understood that the president was trying to help them,their friends and relatives to have decent health care.Where have you been when you were needed. Blame yourselves if this isn't all we hope it to be.When called for, you weren't there.
And when government runs healthcare and it goes into the ground like a dart who will these closet commies picket then?
Exactly who will be accountable for the failed healthcare?
When you don't get the care you need because you are considered a cost over-run what will you do then? Who are you and your loved ones going to seek redress from then?
Can't blame the insurance companies then because they will be federally mandated.
Has the retard Dean told you who will be responsible then?
Maybe you could go after Dean. He'll be quite deserving; if he's still in the country by then.
This article does bring a chuckle...especially after the CNN poll is announced..with 25% of the population not approving of the current intent of a HCB.....and only 1000 showed up...lol...impressive..not.
while I can understand what is being done, Health Insurance groups do not have as large a profit margin as most think. If you and hopefully the government really wants to see the issue with health care...look closely at the Pharmacy Industry. THEY are ones who really mess things up for people in this country. I seriously doubt the drugs cost as much as they charge but then again, their the ones setting the prices. Also, have people noticed that when some of the more popular and most needed drugs patent is about to end on a specific drug and generic medications can be made of this drug, that is also more affordable, the Pharmacy Industry is extending the patent so they can continue to pull in the money at everyone's expense. The Pharmacy Industry is THE LARGEST EXPENSE to the health industry! Check it out for yourselves! and contact you Congressman or woman!!! This is where President Obama REALLY needs to seriously look at!
Look out Tea Party,you have competition.The new up and coming Tea Party.
There may be a "silent majority" that is starting to WAKE UP!
Everyone wants to blame someone. We each need to look at ourselves first before casting stones at each other. We eat too much and eat crappy food. We don't exercise and live stressful lives. We smoke, drink and do drugs. We don't save money and don't live within our means. We expect doctors to be perfect or we sue them. We like hospitals with marble entrances, private rooms, good food...
So should we be surprised that we aren't healthy? That we need lots of medical care? That we cannot afford the care we get?
see that moveon is out in force
Why do you keep polling something that is not realistically pollable. The final bill is going to have significant differences to what you polled on Feb 12th to 15th.
So much has happened since then and many significant changes will be made, some to meet republican ideas, others to make it more palllatable to some democrats, and if Obama et al are true to thier word the Nebraska and other pork will be out and my guess is that has a big impact on current views of democrats and polling numbers.
The way the health insurance industry does their business will never be tolerated by the French people. It's amazing how tolerant the American people are of such social and economic injustice for decades. And, our Senate still insists on giving the health insurance industry their anti-trust exempt. It's totally inconceivable. I can only explain it as that the Senate no longer represents the People.
It is clear that the issue of health care is something that we the American people have to look at carefully. We are one of only two countries in the world without a national health care plan. While some people are trying to demonise healthcare reform as socialism, millions of Americans will benefit and live a better life if we have a comprehensive healthcare reform. This is not an Obama agenda. This is the American people's agenda as demonstrated by the calibre of people that have come out in support of it.
Well it is about time the Democrats had a strong message and demonstrated support. We should coordinate these around the country–strongly disputing these tea party wing nuts.