Obama Makes Final Health Care Push, Calls for Up or Down Vote in Congress

On Tuesday Obama sent a letter to congressional leadership from both parties that said he would be open to including $50 million for state grants for demonstration projects to explore alternatives to medical malpractice cases, and a crackdown on Medicaid and Medicare fraud as proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Obama also heralded the removal of extraneous provisions in the bill such as the so-called Cornhusker Kickback, a deal to secure the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., in which the federal government would pay for Nebraska's Medicaid expansion; and "Gator-aid," the provision to shield Florida seniors from cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, secured by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

But he said there are many Republicans who "just have a fundamental disagreement" over how much oversight the government should have over insurance companies. Obama was blunt in telling those lawmakers what they could do.

VIDEO: Jim Bunning Gives Up the Fight
Sen. Jim Bunning Gives Up the Fight

"If they truly believe that less regulation would lead to higher quality, more affordable health insurance, then they should vote against the proposal I've put forward," he said.

The Republicans responded to the president yesterday with their own letter that essentially said, "Thanks but no thanks."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote to the president to say that the Republicans were "surprised and disappointed with your latest proposal to simply paper a few of these commonsense proposals over an unsalvageable bill."

"The American people are asking us for step-by-step reforms that target cost and expand access, not a couple of commonsense ideas layered over a rewrite of one-sixth of the economy, a massive expansion of the federal government's role in their daily lives, and higher taxes and cuts to Medicare to pay for it," he wrote.

VIDEO: President Obama to Say Democrats Will Use Reconciliation to Pass Senate Health Care Reform Fix, If Not Given Up or Down Vote

The president will be joined in the East Room by health care professionals from around the country and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Obama said today that it is not just the fate of health care reform that's at stake right now, but the ability of politicians in Washington to solve problems.

"The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future," Obama said.

"They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership."

Obama's poll numbers have suffered as the health care debate has dragged on since early last year. "I don't know how this plays politically, but I know it's right," he said.

Video of Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Harry Reid on Jim Bunning.
Senators McConnell, Reid on Jim Bunning

But at the same time he expressed consternation that health care has been consistently framed in the context of elections.

"I know there's a fascination, bordering on obsession, in the media and in this town about what passing health insurance reform would mean for the next election and the one after that," the president said. "Well, I'll leave others to sift through the politics. Because that's not what this is about. That's not why we're here. "

Obama to Make the Case for 'Reconciliation' for Bill

The president sought to paint a picture of what he will say will happen without a health care reform bill – skyrocketing premiums, everyone at the mercy of the insurance industry, as recently seen with the 39 percent premium increases proposed by Anthem Blue Cross in California.

Video of Senator Lamar Alexander on Capitol Hill.
Top Line: Senator Lamar Alexander on Health Care

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