ABC News' Jon Garcia and Sunlen Miller report: “It’s warm,” President Obama said taking off his jacket at an outdoor rally this afternoon in Holmdel, New Jersey, “the health care debate is about to heat up.”
With that, Obama turned a campaign rally intended to help reelect NJ Gov. John Corzine, into a rally to pass Obama's health care plan.
“We have talked and talked and talked about fixing health care for decades and we have finally reached a point where inaction is no longer an option. Where the choice to defer reform is nothing more than a decision to defend the status quo. And I will not defend the status quo. We are going to chance health care reform,” he told an audience of 17,000 at a concert amphitheater in suburban New Jersey.
Obama’s impassioned plea capped a week of political maneuvering on Capitol Hill, with both house and senate committees introducing or passing some form of health care reform packages – a move the President indicated was progress but not the to the final goal yet.
“We’ve made unprecedented progress in Congress, especially this week. But now is when it get really hard. Now is when we gotta get over the finish line,” Obama said. “This is when you start hearing same criticisms, the same scare tactics, and if you do hear these critics I want you to ask the question I always ask: what’s your plan. What’s your alternative?”
Obama continued to sell his plan by making promises about promoting competition, offering a public health plan, not raising taxes on benefits, and even pushing a promise that he has acknowledged in the past isn’t literally true.
“Let me be exactly clear about what health care reform means to you,” the president told the New Jersey crowd. “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”
But just last month the president acknowledged during a press conference, that doesn’t literally mean that you are guaranteed to be able to keep your health care plan, and your doctor, if and when health care reform passes. Obama also argued that more than half of the overall cost of his plan — which is more than $1 trillion – would be paid for by the savings realized when waste in the current system is eliminated.
“We did not come this far as a country because we looked backwards,” he said. “We’ve always been willing to take great chances and reach for new horizons and that’s what we must do again.”
Of course, Obama made sure not to slight the host of the rally, Gov John Corzine. He helped raise nearly $1 million to help Corzine and other NJ Democrats, at a 200 person reception just before the rally. And Obama brought out his old stumping sensibilities, saying of Corzine, “I’m proud to stand with a man who wakes up every day thinking about your future.”
He continued his pitch by offering that Corzine didn’t hold his job because of special interests or a political machine. “He hasn’t avoided doing what’s hard,” Obama said. All of this, the Corzine campaign, hopes will boost Corzine’s sagging poll numbers. In the latest polls, Corzine trails his opponent by six points.
– Jon Garcia and Sunlen Miller