Obama Touts Health Care Reform, Challenges Republicans on Repeal Fight

BY Lea Winerman  March 25, 2010 at 3:08 PM EDT

President Obama extolled the benefits of the newly-signed health care reform law in a speech Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa, in the first of a series of events aimed at selling the new law to the American public.

“I promised that by the end of my first term in office I would sign legislation to reform our health insurance system,” the president said. “On Tuesday, after a year of debate, after a century of trying, after so many of you shared your stories and your heartaches and your hopes, that promise was finally fulfilled.”

Watch an excerpt of the speech:

The president also challenged Republicans who have said that they’ll campaign on a promise to repeal the law to “go for it.”

“If they want to have that fight, they can have it,” he said. “I don’t believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat. We’ve already been there, we’re not going back.”

He also mocked opponents of the bill who said that its passage would be an “Armageddon”:

“So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling, Some cracks opening up in the earth. Turned out it was a nice day. Birds were chirping, foks were strolling down the mall. People still had their doctors,” he said.

In a format similar to his speeches before the House vote last week, the president ran through the benefits people would see immediately from the law — such as a new tax credit for small businesses to help purchase insurance for employees — and those that would phase in over the next four years, such as tax subsidies to purchase insurance in the new exchanges.

“This is a common sense bill,” the president said. “It doesn’t do everything, but it moves us in the direction of universal health care. And that’s why everyone here fought so hard for it.”