- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2010

One day after he delayed an overseas trip to shepherd his legislative priority over its final hurdles, President Obama took his health care road show to Fairfax on Friday, making a final pitch for Democrats’ massive overhaul as the House gears up for a Sunday vote.

Mr. Obama stressed familiar arguments to an audience gathered at George Mason University’s Patriot Center, saying the Democratic bill is the only way to stop health insurance companies from taking advantage of customers.

“If this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run wild in America. They will continue to deny people coverage. They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 percent or 50 percent or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever,” Mr. Obama said. “They know this. That’s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak.”

The day before, Mr. Obama decided to postpone a trip to Indonesia and Australia until June so he could stay in town as Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill scramble for votes.

Mr. Obama argued that his proposal would give Americans more control over their health insurance, and said it reflects the best ideas of both Democrats and Republicans — although the measure is expected to receive no GOP support. Democrats have claimed momentum in recent days as several wavering lawmakers have moved into their camp, and a Congressional Budget Office estimate predicted their measure would cost $940 billion over the next decade and shave $138 billion from the federal deficit.

“Not only can we afford to do this, we can’t afford not to do this,” Mr. Obama said.

Supporters erupted into chants of, “Yes, we can” several times and responded to his campaign-style speech with raucous applause.

Outside of the building, opponents of the overhaul pllan held signs saying, “Honk to save health care” and slamming House Democrats’ consideration of a parliamentary maneuver that would allow them to approve a package of fixes to the Senate’s version of the bill without voting on the underlying Senate legislation itself.

Mr. Obama did not mention process questions Friday, but he did take on critics of the bill, saying similar arguments of socialism and a government takeover were made when Congress considered Social Security and Medicare decades ago. Mr. Obama said those arguments turned out not to be true.

Just as he told crowds during recent trips to Philadelphia, St. Louis and Strongsville, Ohio, Mr. Obama concluded by saying he doesn’t “know how this plays politically.”

“I do know the impact it will have on the millions of Americans who need our help,” he said. “…In just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote.”

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