ABC News’ Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller Report:
President Barack Obama told a crowd in Portland, Maine that if Republicans want to run on a platform to repeal the healthcare reform bill, he welcomes that fight.
“It’s paid for. And it saves on our deficits,” he said, “And now that it’s passed they’re already promising they’re gonna repeal it.”
“My attitude is, go for it. You try to repeal it,” Mr. Obama challenged, “Because I don’t believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the drivers seat.”
The President said there has been “a lot of misinformation…fear-mongering and overheated rhetoric” about the newly passed health care reform bill, and for the first time, he called out Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) as one of those “shouting about how the world will end because we passed this bill.” Mr. Obama said the House minority leader and other Republican leaders called its passage “Armageddon.”
But, the President noted, so far the world has not come to an end.
“So after I signed the bill, I looked up to see if there were any asteroids headed our way. I checked to see if any cracks had opened up in the ground. But you know what? It turned out to be a pretty nice day,” he said, “Nobody lost their doctor, nobody had pulled the plug on granny – now one was being dragged away to be forced into some government plan.”
The President also chided pundits in Washington, who he says are making too much of the fact that many Americans still do not support the bill.
“Every day since I signed reform into law, there’s another poll or headline that says, ‘Nation still divided on health reform.’ Well yeah,” he said with a smile, “It’s only been a week! Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm and you planted seeds and came up next day and looked nothing happened! There’s no crop. We’re going to starve. Oh no! It’s a disaster. It’s been a week folks.”
Taking a more serious tone, the President talked about the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, included in the legislation, which the White House says could help as many as 4 million small business owners cover a third of the cost of their workers’ health care coverage now, and even more in the long run.
“This health care tax credit is pro-jobs, it’s pro-business, and it starts this year,” he said.
He went on to praised the benefits he said the bill will bring for children, seniors and the economy overall.
While the crowd inside the Portland Expo Center gave the President plenty of applause, outside hundreds of protestors lined the streets, many with signs decrying “ObamaCare.” Mr. Obama said that as the motorcade approached the venue, among the friendly waves and smiles, he saw one man giving him a thumbs down. That kind of dissent, he said, he what America makes great.
“Everybody is able to voice their opinions, everybody is able to get out there and organize, you know, and you’re free to call your President an idiot.”