House Democrats try to strike positive tone ahead of health care repeal vote
Hours ahead of a planned vote on a bill that would repeal the national health care overhaul, House Democratic leaders and Obama administration officials tried to strike a positive tone, seeking to depict health care reform as a nonpartisan issue and largely avoiding the heated rhetoric that has animated the debate in the past.
"America builds, and that's what this Congress should be about: building things and making things in America," Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said Wednesday morning at a Capitol news conference. "We're here to say we're ready to build some more and make things better. We're not interested in tearing down or repealing or destroying. We're interested in building."
Becerra addressed reporters along with Democratic Reps. John Larson (Conn.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Rob Andrews (N.J.) ahead of a closed-door House Democratic caucus meeting. Several administration officials also spoke out in defense of the health care overhaul, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills.
In keeping with the mostly collegial tone of Tuesday's floor debate, the Democrats speaking on Wednesday morning focused on patients' stories and the benefits of health care reform, with Vilsack and Mills touching specifically on the benefits for rural families and small businesses.
"I believe that whether you're a member of the tea party, whether you're a rock-ribbed Republican or whether or not you're a plain, ordinary American without labels, you cannot be indifferent to the concerns addressed in these very poignant stories that we've heard over the last year and over the last several days," Larson said. "That's what this vote will be about today."
One Democrat, Wasserman Schultz, invoked the Tucson shooting rampage earlier this month that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Wasserman Schultz, who visited in Tucson in the wake of the tragedy, related a conversation she had with Patricia Maisch, the 61-year-old woman who knocked away the magazine cartridge from alleged gunman Jared Loughner. She said that Maisch told her that she was concerned about the effect health care repeal would have on her and her husband's small business and that even before the shooting, she was hopeful that lawmakers would "choose our words more carefully."
"This has been job-creating, life-affirming legislation, and I know that that's what Pat wanted to share with Gabby, but she didn't have the chance, and I'm really pleased to be able to do that on her behalf today," Wasserman Schultz said.
| January 19, 2011; 10:12 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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