President Barack Obama will urge Congress on Wednesday to “finish its work” and send him a plan to overhaul the $2.5 trillion healthcare system that he can sign into law.
The American people are waiting for the administration to lead, Obama said in excerpts of a statement he was to make later on Wednesday.
“I don’t know how this plays politically, but I know it’s right,” he said. “And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.”
Obama will contend that fixing the U.S. healthcare system is essential, and seek to enact a sweeping overhaul plan after a year of debate, compromise, raucous public meetings and even last week’s seven-hour “summit” with Republican leaders.
“I don’t believe we should give government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats more control over health care in America. I believe it’s time to give the American people more control over their own health insurance,” he said in the excerpts.
The political stakes are enormous for Obama, whose approval ratings have dropped during the healthcare fight in the face of unified Republican opposition to his plan for sweeping reform.
With more than one third of the Senate and all seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs in November elections, Democrats want to move past healthcare to focus on job creation and the economy.
Republicans contend the public does not want the massive plan, which they say is too expensive for a government running huge budget deficits. Even with more Republican ideas included, they want Obama to scrap the bills approved last year by the House and Senate and start over with an incremental approach.
“Americans don’t want us to tack a few good ideas onto a bill that reshapes one-sixth of the economy, vastly expands the role of government, and which raises taxes and cuts Medicare to pay for it all,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday.
Obama had said he was exploring adding more Republican ideas to his proposal, including probes of healthcare providers who receive federal funds, expanded health savings accounts, offering more grants to study alternatives to medical malpractice suits and boosting doctor reimbursements for Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor.
“It’s an approach that has been debated and changed and I believe improved over the last year. It incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans — including some of the ideas that Republicans offered during the health care summit, like funding state grants on medical malpractice reform and curbing waste, fraud, and abuse in the health care system,” Obama said.
Democrats have been preparing to pass a final measure in the Senate without opposition party support through a process called reconciliation, which requires only simple majority approval.
The excerpts of Obama’s remarks did not use the word reconciliation, despite his comment urging Congress to vote.