- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

President Obama said Monday he stands by his pledge not to raise taxes on families making $250,000 or less and lashed out at “Washington thinking” and negative chatter questioning the fate of his health care plan while he was traveling abroad.

“During the campaign, I promised health care reform that would control costs, expand coverage and ensure choice, and I promised that Americans making $250,000 a year or less would not pay more in taxes. These are promises that we’re keeping as reform moves forward,” Mr. Obama said in the Rose Garden ceremony before naming Alabama family physician Dr. Regina Benjamin as his choice for surgeon general.

The White House had been dodging questions on whether Mr. Obama would be able to keep the $250,000 tax pledge from the campaign trail and still pay for the sweeping, expensive health care plan he’s seeking.

The remarks came as Democratic lawmakers were to reveal a new plan to pay for health care — taxing those earning more than $350,000 per year by an additional 1 percent and imposing a higher rate on people earning $500,000 to $1 million.

Mr. Obama challenged those in Washington he said are “scared” to change the health care status quo: “You know, the muscles in this town to bring about big changes are a little atrophied, but we’re whipping folks back into shape.”

Thumping his finger hard on the podium for emphasis, Mr. Obama warned “naysayers” who oppose his health care plan: “Don’t bet against us.” He also said the country is “closer than we have ever been” on passing health reform, even as House and Senate leaders have said they won’t meet his August deadline for drafting bills that could be ready for vote shortly after the August recess.

“So I just want to put everybody on notice, because there was a lot of chatter during the week that I was gone. We are going to get this done. Inaction is not an option,” he said.

The message was the same he’s been pushing all summer, but Mr. Obama struck a stern tone that has been mostly absent since he took office.

“If we step back from this challenge right now, we will leave our children a legacy of debt, a future of crushing costs that bankrupt our families, our businesses and, because we will have done nothing to bring down the costs of Medicare and Medicaid, will crush our government,” he said.

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