WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2009 -- In a closed door meeting with House Democrats this morning, President Obama made an impassioned appeal for what he called "a big moment in history," urging passage of the health care reform bill.
"It's tempting to say, 'I'm tired, it's hard, I'm getting beat up back in the district, it's just not worth it,'" Obama said, according to a source in the meeting. "If we do not get it done this year, we will not get it done anytime soon."
The battles over the creation of Social Security and Medicare, he said, were also hard fought. Supporters of those bills, like supporters of this one, were attacked and called socialists.
The president also made an appeal based on political calculation, pointing to newly sworn-in Congressman Bill Owens, who was sitting in the front row. Owens won a surprise victory in the special election Tuesday in New York's 23rd Congressional district.
"Think about Bill Owens. He could have dodged it [health care], but he didn't," the president said. "And guess what, Bill is sitting right here."
He also warned House Democrats that Republicans will go after them even if they break ranks and vote against the Democratic health care overhaul.
"Do any of you expect the Republicans not to go after you if you vote against this bill?" he asked during the closed door session, according to a Democrat in the room.
At the end of his speech, Obama got a rousing ovation for saying, "I am absolutely confident that when I sign this bill in the Rose Garden, each and every one of you will be able to look back and say, 'This was my finest moment in politics.'"
Later in the Rose Garden, Obama repeated his message to Congress publicly.
"I reminded them that opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation. Most public servants pass through their entire careers without a chance to make as important a difference in the lives of their constituents and the life of this country. This is their moment, this is our moment. ... This is our moment to deliver," he president said.
Abortion Compromise May Get Democratic Votes
Delivering health care reform, at least in its current form, is still an uphill battle. There's no Republican support for it in the House, and divisions within the Democratic caucus over abortion funding could jeopardize it altogether.
Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak has proposed an amendment that would that would bar federal funds going toward abortion under both the public option and any private plans that participate in the new insurance exchange.
Allowing that vote was a compromise that the administration hopes will get anti-abortion Democrats on board with the health care legislation. That amendment will come to a vote today.
A full floor vote on the health care reform bill is expected sometime tonight. Democratic leaders insist that when the time comes to call for a vote they'll have the 218 they need to push it through.
The president alluded to the opposition in his remarks in the Rose Garden.
"No bill can ever contain everything that everybody wants, or please every constituency and every district. That's an impossible task," he said. "But what is possible, what's in our grasp right now is the chance to prevent a future where every day 14,000 Americans continue to lose their health insurance, and every year 18,000 Americans die because they don't have it."
Protesters shouted at Obama's motorcade today. One man held a "Don't Tread on Me" flag while others shouted at the entourage. Around the corner from Obama's Hill entrance, protesters screamed, "Kill the bill," and "Kill the Pelosi bill," a reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Several Republican members of Congress addressed the rally. Rep. Michelle Bauchmann, R-Minn., told the anti-health reform bill demonstrators, "This is not over. We are not quitters."
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas told the crowd, "I wish there was an option for 'hell no' when I record my vote."
ABC News John Parkinson contributed to this report