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Obama Pushes Congress to Pass Health Reform

US President Barack Obama delivers the weekly address, 06 Mar 2010

US President is also expressing urgency on the issue because he will leave on March 18 for a week-long trip to Indonesia and Australia.

U.S. President Barack Obama is battling for passage of his health-care reform proposal. The president is appealing to Democratic lawmakers, who will likely decide whether the main item in his domestic agenda is approved.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, President Obama asks lawmakers to cast a final vote soon on his top priority, which has dominated public debate for the past year.

"I know it has been a long and hard road to this point. And we are not finished with our journey just yet. But we are close. We are very close. And so I ask Congress to finish its work. I ask them to give the American people an up or down vote," he said.

Opposition Republicans have indicated they will not support the plan, so Mr. Obama will likely need "yes" votes from an overwhelming majority of Democrats, not all of whom agree on the proposal.

Republicans, meanwhile, are again calling on the president to start over on the issue. The party's weekly message comes from Congressman Parker Griffith of the Southern state of Alabama, a retired physician who recently switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican.

"In the next 10 days, Democrats in Washington will try and jam through a massive government takeover of health care. It would raise taxes, slash Medicare benefits and destroy American jobs. It would put federal bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions that should be made by patients and doctors, and it must be stopped," he said.

The president again rejects the Republicans' demand that he start over, and says it is time to act. "But you know what? The insurance companies aren't starting over. I just met with some of them on Thursday and they couldn't give me a straight answer as to why they keep arbitrarily and massively raising premiums - by as much as 60% in states like Illinois. If we do not act, they will continue to do this," said Mr. Obama.

The entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate will be up for election in November. Passing a health-care overhaul would give Democrats a domestic accomplishment on which they could campaign. It would also move health reform off the agenda and allow the president to concentrate on voters' main concern, the economy.

Mr. Obama is also expressing urgency on the issue because he will leave on March 18 for a week-long trip to Indonesia and Australia. White House officials have said they expect health reform to pass before then, and that there will be no need to postpone the trip.