As Obama presses health reform, GOP unifies

Obama wants the House and Senate to pass versions of health legislation before the August recess. But Republican senators say that the Senate's proposal would only make things worse.

Ron Edmonds/AP
President Obama, accompanied by members of Congress and medical professionals, delivered remarks on healthcare reform Wednesday in the Rose Garden. The status quo for US healthcare is not an option, he said.

President Obama on Wednesday made it clear that he will spend at least the rest of July trying to urge Congress to push healthcare reform over the legislative finish line.

Mr. Obama wants both the House and Senate to pass versions of health legislation before they leave for their August recess.

“We are going to be continually talking about this for the next two to three weeks,” said Obama at a Rose Garden ceremony that also honored the contributions of nurses.

But success is far from a foregone conclusion. If nothing else, the health effort at this point faces unified Republican opposition. That was also made clear Wednesday, as GOP senators held their own public event at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to express their displeasure with the way the health effort is proceeding so far.

Thus for Washington, it was a day of dueling points of view on this issue.

“From the start of the healthcare debate, Democrats have completely shut us out of the process,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah.

President spoke following action by the Senate health committee, which approved its version of health legislation earlier in the day. Democratic House leaders unveiled their health bill on Tuesday.

“We’re closer to healthcare reform than we have ever been,” Obama said in the Rose Garden.

The status quo for US healthcare is not an option, said Obama, pointing out that over the past decade, healthcare premiums have risen three times faster than wages.

But across town, Republican senators said that the Senate’s proposed fix for the healthcare problem would only make things worse.

It would still leave millions of Americans uninsured, while burdening small businesses with added costs, the GOP lawmakers said.

“Small businesses will be massively impacted by this, and a lot of jobs will be lost in America,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire.

At the GOP press conference, defeated presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said that the health bill would add another $1 trillion on top of the debt already accumulated in the fight against the recession.

That would be an act of “generational theft,” said Senator McCain, in that it would burden future taxpayers.

“Elections have consequences,” he said. “This is a glaring example of that.”


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