Obama touts endorsements by seniors, doctors groups
By Scott Wilson
President Obama said Thursday he is "extraordinarily pleased and grateful" for the AARP and American Medical Association endorsements of the health care reform legislation moving through the House of Representatives.
"We are closer to passing this reform than ever before," Obama said. "And now that the doctors and medical professionals of America are standing with us; now that the organizations charged with looking out for the interests of seniors are standing with us, we are even closer."
Obama made his remarks during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, and his decision to do so appeared designed to generate momentum for the bill heading into a decisive weekend.
Obama is scheduled to travel to the Hill Friday to speak with House Democrats about the importance of passing the legislation. A House vote is scheduled for Saturday, the first of several key Congressional floor votes that will determine whether he secures his signature domestic policy initiative by his end-of-the-year deadline.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the goal of Obama's Hill visit is "trying to get the bill out of the House."
Obama declined to endorse the House version during his appearance in the briefing room, but Gibbs did not rule out his doing so Friday in meetings on the Hill.
"I think it's important for members to hear the importance of continuing to move this process along, continuing to make progress on reforms that are real and tangible for the American people," Gibbs said.
As Obama appeared at the White House, demonstrators rallied on Capitol Hill against the health care reform legislation. Asked for his comment on the protests, Gibbs said "there's a rally going on without a solution on their side."
Gibbs called the Republican health care proposal "a series of old ideas that wouldn't cut the amount of money government spends on health care nearly to the degree that other bills would."
"The piece of legislation they've come up with, I think, is disappointing as a process in this debate and disappointing for millions of Americans that wanted help in finding affordable health care," he said.
Referring to AARP, the nation's leading senior-citizens lobby, Obama told reporters "this is no small endorsement."
"They're endorsing this bill because they know it will strengthen Medicare, not jeopardize it. They know it will protect the benefits our seniors receive, not cut them," he said. "So I want everybody to remember that the next time you hear the same tired arguments to the contrary from the insurance companies and their lobbyists. And remember this endorsement the next time you see a bunch of misleading ads on television."
Obama described the AMA as "men and women who know our health care system best and have been watching this debate closely."
"They would not be supporting it if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors," he said. "They would not be with us if they believed that reform would in any way damage the critical and sacred doctor-patient relationship."
Posted at 3:17 PM ET on Nov 5, 2009
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