President Stumps for Health Care Reform at Annual AFL-CIO Event
On Monday, President Obama delivered a campaign-style speech to labor union members that aimed to boost support for his efforts to overhaul the U.S. health care system, the Washington Post reports.
Speaking at the AFL-CIO's annual Labor Day gathering in Ohio, Obama said he had a question for critics of his plans, "What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution?" He added, "And you know what? They don't have one" (Mostrous, Washington Post, 9/8).
Obama also said he remains committed to a public health insurance plan option, which top AFL-CIO leaders in recent weeks have insisted be included in a final reform bill, according to The Hill (Youngman, The Hill, 9/7). Obama said, "I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs" (Stolberg, New York Times, 9/8).
The president said his remarks are a preview of what he will tell Congress in a joint session Wednesday night (The Hill, 9/7). According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama aides said that he will describe what the U.S. health care system could look like without reform -- rising costs and uninsurance rates that would lead to additional expenses for residents, as well as increased efforts by insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 9/7).
Addressing union members, Obama added that any reform legislation also should protect senior citizens by closing gaps in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
"I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry," he said (Strohm, CongressDaily, 9/7).
Obama also said reform would provide "security and stability for folks who have health insurance," as well as, "help for those who don't and the coverage they need at a price they can afford" (Wall Street Journal, 9/7).
The New York Times reports that Obama also had a message for lawmakers in Congress. "The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many months," he said, adding, "And debate is good, because we have to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point it's time to decide, at some point it's time to act" (New York Times, 9/8).
AFL-CIO's Trumka Comments on Speech
Following Obama's speech, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said the mention of support for the public option helped make the speech "the best Labor Day speech I've ever heard from a president" (Washington Post, 9/8). He added, "I wish he had given that speech he gave today a month ago, two months ago" (Wall Street Journal, 9/8).
Trumka, the incoming president of the labor group, recently "created an uproar" when he suggested that labor unions would withhold their support for a reform bill that does not include a public plan option, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 9/8).
Trumka said on Monday, "You have to take the president at face value," adding, "He said the public option is necessary, he's going to fight for it and we're going to fight with him" (Washington Post, 9/8).
Summer Could Make Reform Easier for Obama, Democrats
On Monday, the Los Angeles Times examined how the chaotic summer might make it easier for Obama and Democrats to gain a "newly sharpened focus" on health reform. According to the Los Angeles Times, Obama and his congressional allies are "entering the next phase" of the reform debate "with lower expectations of what can be accomplished -- but with far greater certainty that significant legislation" will be passed by the end of this year.
Obama's decision to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, at which time he is expected to provide more details of his health reform agenda, "has only increased the pressure" to achieve health reform this year, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, top congressional Democrats are scheduled to meet privately on Tuesday to discuss new strategies to proceed on reform, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are set to convene for a meeting with Obama to discuss his address and other reform priorities (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 9/7).
- Los Angeles Times : Obama in his address on Wednesday "needs to put the focus where it belongs: on the problems in the health care system and how to fix them," which "will require him to add particulars to the principles he has laid out for 'ObamaCare,'" the editorial states. It concludes, "By offering his own plan for reform, Obama can finally take a side in those debates and sharpen the public's focus," adding, "Then, perhaps, reform advocates can rally support for systemic change, producing a health care system that works for everyone" (Los Angeles Times, 9/8).
- New York Times : Obama's address on Wednesday "is the moment for him to stand tough for a large and comprehensive plan" on health reform, the editorial states. "This is no time to yield on core elements of reform or on the scale of the effort in search of enough Republican support to provide the veneer of bipartisanship or even the one or two Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster," it adds (New York Times, 9/6).