Obama Makes Overhaul Pitch In Ohio
With a possible deciding vote on health care overhaul legislation nearing, President Obama traveled Monday to Ohio to make a last-minute plea for political "courage" to pass the legislation, The Washington Post reports. "Making an impassioned pitch in a part of the country where unemployment runs high and insurance coverage is uncertain, Obama said in a speech at a senior center here, 'I don't know about the politics, but I know what's the right thing to do'" (Slevin and Branigin, 3/15).
Obama chose Strongville, Ohio, because it's the home turf of "several swing Democrats," including Dennis Kucinich, The New York Times reports. Kucinich has opposed the bill from the political left, saying he favors Medicare for all. "In Ohio, Mr. Obama made a classic effort to put a human face on an intractable problem, telling the story of Natoma Canfield, the cleaning woman. The drama could not have been more suited to his purposes had he scripted it." The woman wrote a letter to Obama saying she recently had to drop insurance coverage because of rate hikes, despite a history of cancer. She was set to introduce Obama at the rally, but was in the hospital with leukemia instead. Obama said, "So you want to know why I'm here, Ohio? I'm here because of Natoma" (Stolberg, 3/15).
Los Angeles Times: "It was Obama's third campaign-style appearance in just over a week as he pressed for congressional action on his healthcare plan before he leaves for a diplomatic trip to Asia on March 21. The president was originally scheduled to go on March 18, but he delayed his departure by three days to allow House leaders time to corral the needed 216 votes." Obama will spend the days wooing dissident Democrats, "some unhappy about the Senate version of the healthcare bill, some unhappy about abortion language and some unhappy about the overall cost" (Geiger and Muskal, 3/15).
The Wall Street Journal: "Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Mr. Biden hosted a fund-raiser for Rep. Steve Driehaus, a freshman Democrat. Mr. Driehaus voted for the House version of the overhaul last fall but is now on the fence. Mr. Biden largely avoided the topic of health care, but praised Mr. Driehaus's past support for the administration. A Driehaus spokesman said he "will remain undecided until it's clear exactly what the House will be considering and he's had time to review it" (Meckler, 3/16).
CongressDaily: Obama also took on a specific criticism of the bill, saying opponents of the overhaul were "trying to 'hoodwink' seniors" and argued that the proposal would improve the Medicare program. "Every senior should know: There is no cutting of your guaranteed Medicare benefits. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or is trying to misinform you. Don't let them hoodwink you. They are trying to hoodwink you" (Condon, 3/15).
ABC News: After the Ohio rally, Obama told an ABC correspondent, "I believe we are going to get the votes, we're going to make this happen." Returning to a theme of his speech, Obama told the network, "Natoma would have been able to be part of this exchange [if the overhaul passes], this marketplace that gave her a choice of plans, just like members of Congress have. But, because she'd be a part of a million people who are in a pool, her rates would be lowered and so you wouldn't have seen her being put into a choice where she's got to choose between her house or her health care" (Travers, 3/15).
BusinessWeek: But, "Passage isn't assured. Republicans are united against the Democrats' plans, saying the legislation might crowd out private insurers, raise taxes and widen the federal budget deficit. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, said yesterday that 'as of this morning' supporters didn't yet have the votes" (Brower and Jensen, 3/15).
Reuters: "Obama again criticized the health insurance industry to make his case for a revamp of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system to rein in what he called abuses by insurers, declaring it is time for 'health insurance reform, right now!'" Yet, "[a]lthough publicly confident of passing the overhaul, Democrats in Washington were scrambling behind the scenes." (Bull, 3/15).