In what seemed like a premature victory lap, President Obama addressed a rally in Fairfax, Va., on Friday where he once again made a passionate argument for lawmakers to approve the health-care bill regardless of the political consequences.
A crowd of thousands packed the Patriot Center to hear Obama speak while hundreds more waited in line outside. Upon taking the podium, Obama appeared confident the bill would pass and touted his administration’s success in coming so close to achieving health-care reform.
“A lot of people in Washington, they didn’t even think it was worth us trying. The Washington conventional wisdom was, ‘change was too hard,'” Obama said. “Right now we are at the point where we are going to do something historical this weekend.”
“In just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote,” Obama said before calling the legislative process messy, ugly and frustrating. However, the president said he did not know whether the public would support his plan if enacted.
“I’ll confess — I don’t know how this plays politically. Nobody really does. But what I do know what it will mean for America’s future. I don’t know what impact reform will have on our poll numbers. But do I know the impact it will have on the millions of Americans who need our help,” he said.
Sticking to a familiar script, Obama framed the debate as being between special interests and the American people and once again invoked the name of Natoma Canfield, the Ohio cancer patient who has recently become a centerpiece of Obama’s case for health-care reform. He also acknowledged the political cost of the battle but encouraged members to vote for the bill in spite of the potential fallout.
“A lot of reporting in Washington, it’s just like Sportscenter. It’s just like a sport,” Obama said. “George Mason, I don’t know how passing health care will play politically. But I know it’s right. Teddy Roosevelt knew it was right. Harry Truman knew it was right. Ted Kennedy knew it was right.”
“We are gonna get this done and we are going to make history.”
Supporters of Obama dominated the crowd and most seemed confident the bill will pass soon. George Mason senior Lindsay Pratt-Bluemle said she’s concerned about her parents, who lost their health insurance when her father recently lost his job.
“I don’t necessarily worry about health care for myself,” she said, adding that the cost of the bill is justified. “It’s going to be expensive, it affects every person in our country.”
The biggest cheer of the rally came when Obama outlined a proposal in the bill that will allow young people to keep their parent’s health insurance up to age 26.
“As you start your lives and careers, the last thing you should be worrying about is if you’re gonna go broke or make your parents broke just because you get sick,” Obama said, adding that most Republicans support that part of the bill.
Former teacher and National Education Association employee Tomas Saucedo also seemed buoyant at the prospects of the health-care bill passing this weekend. He said students without coverage often faced profound disadvantages, absenteeism and also force family members to stay home from work to care for them.
Opponents of the bill were also on hand to make their voices heard. Dozens protested outside while many more filed into the auditorium to hear the president speak.
Clad in a white T-shirt with “Small Government” written on the back in marker, George Mason sophomore Jorge Osuna said he disagrees with the health-care bill but thinks it is important to listen to the president’s perspective. Osuna said he agrees that health care is too expensive but he thinks other measures should be considered, such as relaxing licensing laws to increase the supply of physicians.
“I disagree with [the president]. It’s not the role of the government to intervene directly in the health insurance market,” Osuna said.
One woman was forcibly escorted outside by security when she refused to stop yelling during the president’s speech. At that moment Obama alleged the public had heard “every crazy argument over this bill.”
“First we heard this was going to be a government takeover, then we heard this was going to kill Granny,” he said. “But what we’re talking about here is common-sense reform.”