President Barack Obama is urging Congress to vote in the next few weeks on his proposal to reform the U.S. health care system. The president is indicating that he is ready to try to pass the plan with no Republican Party support.
After about a year of debate, President Obama says lawmakers owe the American people a final vote on health care reform. "So that is our proposal. This is where we have ended up. It is an approach that has been debated and changed and I believe improved over the last year. It incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans," he said.
The president is rejecting Republicans' demands that he start over on the issue, and has asked leaders in both houses of Congress to schedule a vote in the next few weeks. "For us to start over now could simply lead to delay that could last for another decade or even more. The American people and the U.S. economy just cannot wait that long," he said.
With no Republican support for the bill, Senate Democrats will need to use a legislative procedure called reconciliation, which would require almost unanimous Democratic support.
The top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, warns against passing the plan, even with the president's addition of several Republican ideas. "Now I appreciate, we all do, the president's call for a bipartisan approach. But where we are headed, through the use of reconciliation, means that the only thing that will be bipartisan about this proposal will be the opposition to it," he said.
McConnell says most Americans oppose the president's plan, and passing it will have political consequences for Democrats in November's congressional elections. "So I would say to my Democratic friends, you ignore the overwhelming desires of the American people at your own peril," he said.
The president says he is not concerned about the political implications of the issue. He says Americans are questioning their elected officials' ability to govern. "At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it is still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future," he said.
Mr. Obama is promising an all-out push to build public support for the plan. He will visit the states of Pennsylvania and Missouri next week as part of the campaign.