Obama on Health Care: Let’s Sit Down, Take Our Time, Then Move Forward on a Vote

From Sunlen Miller:

President Obama assured his supporters today that even though governing is hard and change is harder to achieve than anyone thought– that he is “still fired up and still ready to go.”

Summoning the message back that once mobilized his grass-roots campaign, the president spoke tonight in front of the same people – Organizing for America and DNC members – who poll show some are feeling somewhat discouraged by the first year of the Obama administration.

“I know some of you might feel discouraged,” Obama admitted, “Because changing the ways of Washington is hard. It’s harder than a lot of you thought it might be. Sometimes it made you feel like it’s not possible. You might want to give up. Don’t give up.”

The president said that they have to push harder, and keep up the fight.

“The forces of the status quo may not give an inch, but we will not give an inch. Because we didn’t come this far to put things off, or to play it safe. We didn’t do all this work to take the easy road to get to the next election.”

Health Care: Let’s All Sit Down, Take Our Time, Then “We’ve Got to Move Forward on a Vote”

Mr. Obama said that he’s got his own pollsters who warned him last December of not to take up the issue of health care reform, because it would be bad for him politically.

“I knew this was hard. I knew seven presidents had failed. I knew seven Congresses hadn’t gotten it done. You don’t think I got warnings?,” Obama said laughing, “So yes, we took it on.”

Asked by an online questioner what the strategy is to move forward on health care reform, the president outlined in broad strokes what he’d like to see happen.

As called for in his State of the Union address the president said the phase they are in right now is to call on Republicans for their ideas. After that he’d like to invite everyone to the table for a discussion and then take this to a vote.

“What I’d like to do is have a meeting where I’m sitting with the Republicans, sitting with the Democrats. Sitting with health care experts. And let’s just go through these bills. Their ideas, our ideas, let’s walk thought them in a methodical way so the American people can see and compare. What makes the most sense. And then I think we’ve got to go ahead and move forward on a vote.”

The President gave no hard deadlines to his outline for reform – but he said they would be working on it during the next few weeks. A jobs bill, he said, has to be the number one priority ahead of health care reform.

He added that while he wants “to take our time,” the key though, is to “not let the moment slip away” on health care.

So what happens if the bill in Congress does not pass? It’s an election year, Obama said to remember.

“If Congress decides we’re not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not. And that’s how democracy works, with the elections coming up. And they will be able to make a determination, and register their concerns one way or the other during election time.”

And what may be a lasting anecdote for the president’s push on health care reform – Mr. Obama told for the first time a story about a woman in St. Louis who had been part of his campaign.

She couldn’t afford health insurance and put off her exams. After a tough battle for four years, throughout the campaign. She died 5 days ago.

“She insisted that she is going to be buried in an Obama t-shirt,” Obama said, “She was fighting that whole time not just to get me elected, not even to get herself health care, but because she understood that there were others coming behind her who were going to find themselves in the situation. And he didn’t want others going through that something.”

The President questioned, then how he could give up on health care reform now.

“How can I say to her, ‘you know what – we’re giving up?’ How can I say to her family, this is too hard. How can Democrats on the Hill say this is politically risky? How can Republicans on the Hill say we’re better off just blocking anything from happening?”

“That can’t be the message,” Obama concluded.

The president did not divulge the name of the woman – but the White House says he was referencing Melanie Shouse , 41, who passed away on January 30th.

The President will speak at two fundraisers for this evening – which Democratic officials estimate will rake in between $2 -$3 million dollars for the party.

Mr. Obama laughed off some of the hysteria around the massive snow storm headed into the Washington, D.C. area, telling everyone, “we can handle it.”

-Sunlen Miller

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