“I Know This Is A Tough Vote”

“I Know This Is A Tough Vote”

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President Barack Obama spoke to the House of Representatives Saturday afternoon to rally support for his healthcare reform bill. The president emphasized in his speech over and over again that he understood how hard this vote will be for some of his party members. He also spoke directly to the lack of bipartisanship, calling the Republican contribution to the healthcare debates ideas that were “rejected” without any of the usual political equivocation.

Of the dozens of speeches President Obama has made over the past few months to build support for this bill, this one was the most poignant. The tone of the speech was remarkably intimate for a commander-in-chief known to rely on lofty campaign style rhetoric to get his points across. Reporters who wanted access to the text of the speech were told that there was no text – the president, they offered, was giving this address without one.

“We are making sure that the system of private insurance works for ordinary families,” he said, calling the legislation a ‘patient’s bill of rights on steroids’ and ‘the toughest insurance reform in history.'”

President Obama, speech to House members

After quoting Abraham Lincoln, — “we are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true” — the president launched into a somber walk down memory lane. He identified some of the challenges the Democrats have faced from the GOP and citizen groups organized to oppose healthcare reform over the last year. He referenced many of the criticisms of the bill, refuting the death panel charge — “nobody’s pulling the plug on Granny” — as well as the accusation that he was in charge of hatching a socialist plot that ignored mainstream America’s concerns — “this bill is a middle of the road bill.”

“It is in your hands. It is time to pass healthcare reform for America…Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people.”

President Obama, speech to House members

At the end of his address, he drew on the accelerating cadence that had become his campaign trademark, rousing the Democrats to a resounding cheer, even as he reminded his party “this will be close.” Gail Collins on the New York Times weighed in on his performance, and the significance of tomorrow’s vote if the bill passes:

“But the core qualities that got him elected were his coolness under pressure and the sense that he would never stop fighting for change. No matter what you think of it, this health care bill is one heck of a change. And no matter what you think of the White House strategy, Obama has been incredibly tenacious in pushing for it.”

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