President Obama Compares Health Care Vote to Those for Civil Rights, Social Security, Medicare

Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller:

To a young and raucous crowd at George Mason University’s Patriot Center this morning, President Obama cast the pending vote on health care reform in the pantheon of other great liberal legislative triumphs for Civil Rights and Social Security.

“In just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote,” the President said. “We’ve had historic votes before. We had a historic vote to put Social Security in place to make sure that our elderly did not live out their golden years in poverty. We had a historic vote in civil rights to make sure that everybody was equal under the law.”

With a nod to the protracted fight, vote-whipping, and controversial bill-sweeteners such as the soon-to-be-killed “Cornhusker Kickback,” the president said that “as messy as this process is, as frustrating as this process is, as ugly as this process can be, when we have faced such decisions in our past, this nation, time and time again, has chosen to extend its promise to more of its people.”

The president reminded the crowd of apocalyptic warnings and once-unpopular legislation of the past. “You know, the naysayers said that Social Security would lead to socialism,” he said to laughter. “But the men and women of Congress stood fast and created that program that lifted millions out of poverty.”

Other cynics, he said, “warned that Medicare would lead to a government takeover of our entire health care system, and that it didn’t have much support in the polls. But Democrats and Republicans refused to back down, and they made sure that our seniors had the health care that they needed and could have some basic peace of mind.” He added that “previous generations, those who came before us, made the decision that our seniors and our poor, through Medicaid, should not be forced to go without health care just because they couldn’t afford it. Today it falls to this generation to decide whether we will make that same promise to hardworking middle-class families and small businesses all across America, and to young Americans like yourselves who are just starting out.”

Said the president, “I know this has been a difficult journey. I know this will be a tough vote. I know that everybody is counting votes right now in Washington. But I also remember a quote I saw on a plaque in the White House the other day. It’s hanging in the same room where I demanded answers from insurance executives and just received a bunch of excuses. And it was a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, the person who first called for health care reform -- that Republican -- all those years ago. And it said, ‘Aggressively fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.’”

-- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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