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Obama Kicks Off Critical Week for Health Reform

September 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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President Barack Obama renewed his push for health care reform from Ohio where he addressed the AFL-CIO on Labor Day. Gwen Ifill reports.

GWEN IFILL: President Obama hit the road on this Labor Day to renew his drive for health care reform. He used the occasion to set the stage for what the administration is touting as a turning-point speech set for later this week.

The president appeared pumped up as he greeted a supportive crowd at an AFL-CIO picnic in Cincinnati.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s good to be back in Ohio.

GWEN IFILL: Striking a more aggressive tone after a tough August, Mr. Obama used today’s speech to set the stage for the health care address he’s to deliver on Wednesday.

BARACK OBAMA: We have never been this close. We’ve never had such broad agreement on what needs to be done. And because we’re so close to real reform, suddenly, the special interests are doing what they always do, which is just try to scare the heck out of people.

I have got a question for all those folks: What are you going to do? What’s your answer? What’s your solution? And you know what? They don’t have one. Their answer is to do nothing.

GWEN IFILL: Without going into detail, the president delivered a message designed to appeal to Americans who already have coverage.

BARACK OBAMA: I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry. They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair. Security and stability for folks who have health insurance, help for those they don’t, the coverage they need at a price they can afford.

GWEN IFILL: The Wednesday speech will be closely watched for what Mr. Obama says about including a government-funded public option. Today, he endorsed the idea again, without saying if it’s a deal-breaker.

BARACK OBAMA: I see reform where Americans and small businesses that are shut out of health insurance today will be able to purchase coverage at a price they can afford. And I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs.

GWEN IFILL: And speaking to distressed workers and job-seekers on this Labor Day, the president defended his recovery plan, even as the jobless rate nears 10 percent.

BARACK OBAMA: For the second straight month, we lost fewer jobs than the month before, and it was the fewest jobs that we had lost in a year. So, make no mistake. We’re moving in the right direction.

GWEN IFILL: To speed a recovery in manufacturing, the president also named Ron Bloom, a top member of his auto task force, to oversee a policy in that area. The president returned to Washington this afternoon. Congress returns tomorrow from its August recess, when the health care debate will resume in earnest.