Obama prods House on health care bill

November 7, 2009 11:55:46 AM PST
President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to pass a proposed health care overhaul during a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Saturday and later told them: "Now is the time to finish the job." Making pitches to lawmakers in person and then from the White House, Obama pushed the U.S. House to move ahead with his top domestic priority. After meeting with Democrats behind closed doors for nearly an hour, Obama returned to his office and appealed to lawmakers' sense of history, telling them such opportunities "come around maybe once in a generation."

"Millions of Americans are watching right now," Obama said in the Rose Garden.

"This is why they sent us here -- to finally confront the challenges that Washington had been putting off for decades, to make their lives better, to leave this country stronger than we found it," Obama said.

"This is their moment; this is our moment to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us, even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard. This is our moment to deliver," he said.

As Obama spoke, lawmakers at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue moved slowly toward a crucial vote on an overhaul of how Americans receive health care coverage. The president described the progress as moving the country "closer than we've ever been to passing health insurance reform for the American people."

"Now's the time to finish the job," he said.

He said it was time for lawmakers to "answer the call of history and vote yes" for the bill.

Earlier Saturday, Obama met with lawmakers and made his case directly to them, deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters. He said Obama again made the pitch that passing the proposals would bring down the cost of health care for families, small businesses and the government.

Obama opened his remarks to Democrats by speaking about this week's shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, participants said. He told lawmakers that the hardships members of the military make for the country "is what sacrifice really is," according to Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., as opposed to "casting a vote that might lose an election for you."

"It put things in perspective in a very appropriate way," Andrews said.

Another participant in the meeting said Obama told fellow Democrats that "today's vote is about whether we're going to stop now." The source described the meeting on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

"It's tempting to say, 'I'm tired, it's hard, I'm getting beat up back in the district, it's just not worth it,"' the participant quoted Obama as saying.

The source also said Obama cautioned lawmakers that "if we do not get it done this year, we will not get it done anytime soon."

Outside the meeting, protesters shouted at Obama's motorcade. One man held a "Don't Tread on Me" flag while others shouted at the entourage. Around the corner from Obama's entrance, protesters screamed, "Kill the bill," and "Kill the Pelosi bill," a reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Obama told lawmakers -- who spontaneously erupted in Obama campaign chant "fired up, ready to go" at the end of the meeting -- he wants to sign a health overhaul bill by year's end.

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