Obama Continues His Push For A Health Overhaul

President Obama addresses Congress as Vice President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on. i i

President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night at the U.S. Capitol as Vice President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on. Jason Reed/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jason Reed/AP
President Obama addresses Congress as Vice President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on.

President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night at the U.S. Capitol as Vice President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on.

Jason Reed/AP

President Obama embarked on what he called a "full-court press" for his health care overhaul Thursday, meeting at the White House with nurses a day after his prime-time address to Congress and the nation.

Speaking to members of the American Nursing Association, Obama pointed to the rising number of uninsured to highlight the need for quick congressional action.

"It is heartbreaking and it is wrong and nobody should be treated that way in the United States of America. Nobody!" the president said. He also cited new Census Bureau statistics, released Thursday, showing that the number of people without health coverage has risen to 46.3 million from 45.7 million in 2007.

"We don't need more partisan distractions," Obama told the nurses. "We have talked this issue to death. ... The time for talk is winding down."

The president also met with members of his Cabinet for a health care-focused discussion, telling reporters afterward that he continues "to be open to suggestions and ideas from all quarters" but that "what we cannot do is stand pat."

Obama planned to meet later Thursday with centrist "blue dog" Democrats, whose support is crucial to passing his health care proposal.

In an early morning interview on ABC's Good Morning America, Vice President Biden predicted that a bill would be on the president's desk "before Thanksgiving."

Meanwhile, Republicans went on the offensive, dismissing Obama's joint address to Congress as "another lecture" on health care, even as the party tried to distance itself from an outburst Wednesday night by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina that shocked the chamber.

Wilson shouted out, "You lie!" during the speech after Obama said that his health care proposal would not include illegal immigrants.

The congressman apologized Thursday for his "lack of civility" and said he had been directed to call the White House to clear the air. Obama acknowledged Wilson's apology, saying he was "a big believer that we all make mistakes" and that it was time to stop the "name calling" and "wild accusations, false claims."

Republicans said Obama came up short in his speech. House Minority Leader John Boehner said Thursday "what the American people got was not another plan, but another lecture."

"It's clear that some employers are going to drop plans," forcing people to change their insurance, he said.

Sen. John McCain, interviewed Thursday morning on NBC's Today show, said he agreed that something needs to be done about health care. But he also said that if the administration wants to see legislation realized, it must reach out more aggressively to minority Republicans.

"We need to do it, but it has to be bipartisan," the Arizona Republican said.

McCain also expressed concern about the cost of Obama's proposal, saying, "The math doesn't add up and the record doesn't add up. There is very little if anything in this package that calls for real spending reduction, and $1 trillion is basically what it's going to cost."

Even if congressional Republicans weren't swayed, early indications were that at least some average Americans were.

A national AARP poll of 522 Americans ages 45 and older found that while 70 percent of those surveyed had concerns about the health care bills before Obama's speech, nearly three-quarters said afterward that the president had addressed some of those concerns. And nearly 70 percent of those respondents said they felt more supportive of the proposals discussed.

In the retirement community of Vizcaya in Delray Beach, Fla., retiree Judy Goldstein said she had been fearful of the rumors of "death panels" and was encouraged by what Obama said to try to clear up confusion.

"I was listening to all the negative things, especially since I am a senior citizen. I said, 'Oh my god, they are going to put me to sleep,' " she told NPR.

"I don't consider myself stupid, but I was really believing it, because I did not vote for him," Goldstein said. "A lot of things about him I did not like, so I am glad I heard this tonight."

Biden also said he thought Obama's speech "debunked a lot of myths out there," including accusations that legislation being drafted would include death panels for the sick and the elderly and that it would provide insurance coverage for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The president is keeping the health care issue in the spotlight. He is scheduled to appear at a campaign-style rally Saturday in Minnesota and has planned another speech for next Tuesday.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.