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Obama to Make Final Health Reform Appeal to House Democrats

  • Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama goes to Capitol Hill a short time from now (3:05 p.m. EDT) for a last-minute appeal to pass major health-care reform legislation. Democrats say they are approaching the number of votes they need for passage, as Sunday's vote looms.

President Obama is pressing hard for House of Representatives passage of the health-care reform bill. His Saturday afternoon meeting with Democratic Party lawmakers follows dozens of telephone calls over the past few days seeking their support.

Mr. Obama has also held several rallies seeking the public's support, like the one Friday in Fairfax, Virginia.

"The time for reform is now. We have waited long enough. We have waited long enough. And in just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote," he said.

Reforming the U.S. health-insurance system is the centerpiece of Mr. Obama's domestic agenda, and is vital to his political fortunes. The president has twice postponed a visit to Indonesia and Australia - now scheduled for June - to lobby for the bill's passage and possibly sign it into law.

Top House Democrats have said they do not yet have the 216 votes they need to pass Mr. Obama's proposal. But they say they are close and moving closer.

Republicans remain solidly against the legislation. The top House Republican, Minority Leader John Boehner, says in the party's weekly radio and Internet address the American people have made it clear that they oppose this bill.

"We have seen standing-room only crowds at town meetings, rallies in towns and cities across the country, and now jammed phone lines on Capitol Hill, all of this coming from citizens yelling 'Stop!' at the top of their lungs," he said.

Separate versions of the plan were approved last year by both the House and Senate. Boehner is objecting to the Democrats' plan to pass the Senate-approved bill without a direct vote, by packaging it with a separate measure of changes.

"Democrats are so afraid of the public's outrage, that they have devised a strategy that would allow them to force this massive bill through Congress without even voting on it. It is outrageous, and it is an affront to the principles of representative democracy," he said.

The House Republican leader also says the president's health-care plan will increase taxes and lead to government intervention in individual health care decisions.

The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates the proposal will cost $940 billion in its first 10 years. The agency says during that same time the bill will reduce the U.S. deficit by $130 billion, and cut more than $1 trillion from the national debt.

The legislation would extend health-care insurance to about 32 million Americans who do not have it. It would require most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. And it would ban insurance companies from denying benefits for pre-existing medical conditions.

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