First, some resources: Take a look at the Associated Press fact-check on the speech – it’s early, but relatively comprehensive and at least should indicate what questions to ask as the legislation takes shape. For the full text of the president’s speech, click here; for the Republican response, click here.
Now, on to some reactions from your electeds. I spoke earlier tonight with U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who told me she’d run into the President after the speech as she was heading back to her office.
“I told him I thought he hit it out of the ballpark. He said, ‘Now let’s get it done,’” Boxer said. “I loved it, and I’m ready, I’ve been ready. I think it’s the great moral issue of our time and it’s also a great economic issue.”
And she believes U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., also is “ready to go, ready to write a bill.” The Finance Committee is the last that must produce a bill before Congress sets about combining the several bills into one, and he’d said earlier today that he’s ready to push ahead with a bill in the week after next – with or without Republican support, but also without the public option for which President Obama made his case tonight.
Boxer thought he made that case, and the rest of the case for reform, well.
“The President did what he had to do tonight to jumpstart health care legislation. He put a human face on the issue, he addressed all the propaganda that’s been out there as a distraction… He made a moral argument,” she said, adding that as the President recounted the note he’d received from the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, “You could’ve heard a pin drop in that chamber – he really spoke from his heart and to our hearts.”
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said much the same when I spoke with her this evening.
“He really made us recognize that health care should be a moral imperative and it is an issue of social justice,” Lee said, particularly by voicing support for the public option that her caucus and others have demanded. “For him to continue to support it, with all the pressure on him to take it off the table, was what I wanted to hear.”
Now that the President has taken off the gloves to “dispel all of these terrible myths and lies” opponents have leveled this summer, “the work continues – now we have to make this happen,” she said.
More reactions from your electeds, after the jump…
From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:
“Tonight President Obama made a clear and convincing case to Congress: We must pass health insurance reform. Repeating history by doing nothing is not an option. American families and our nation’s businesses cannot afford to wait any longer. This is what Americans across the country, of all backgrounds and political stripes, told lawmakers in town hall meetings, coffee shops, and local grocery stores over the past month. Their need for higher quality, more secure, and more affordable health insurance hasn’t changed. And neither has our obligation – as their elected officials – to deliver it for them.
“President Obama’s excellent address moves us closer to the finish line. He laid out specific benchmarks for reform and proved he wants to put good, sound policies above politics. He extended an open hand to all lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, who are interested in working together to find common ground. He indisputably refuted the many cynical lies and distractions that opponents of health reform have been spreading for months. He reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that these reforms do not add a penny to our deficit. He reminded us that effective health reform is essential to restoring our long-term fiscal health and securing a stronger future for our children. In short, he did everything he needed to do.
“But, the success of health care reform will ultimately depend upon leaders who choose to work on behalf of the American people towards that finish line and engage in a serious debate. Calculated, false, and outrageous attacks for political gain must end. And those who continue to stand in the way of reform have a choice to make. They can either join in this historic effort – or they can continue to stand against it, with no real plan of their own. But we will not allow them to be a roadblock to the change that American workers, families, and businesses urgently need.
“Despite months of distractions and outright lies from opponents of health reform, Congress is closer than ever to enacting reforms that will transform our health care system from one that works for insurance companies into one that works for the American people.
“The House bill meets the principles President Obama laid out tonight. The America’s Affordable Health Choices Act lowers health costs for families, businesses and the government, ensures that Americans cannot be denied coverage or become bankrupt because they get sick, protects and expands people’s choices of doctors and health plans, creates competition and accountability to keep insurance companies honest, and provides access to affordable health care for all.
“Tonight the President left no doubts that meaningful health insurance reform will be transformative for our families, our economy and our country. The time for Congress to act is now.”
From House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont:
“I thank the President for his address to our nation this evening. This is a complex issue. We saw over the August break that special interests and right wing fanatics spread lies that scare the American public and make it more difficult to achieve real health reform.
“The President laid out the core principles for reform. I agree with him. Health reform has to provide all Americans with the choice of quality, affordable coverage options and rein in the growth in health spending. The public health insurance option will ensure choice in all parts of our country. It will lower costs by guaranteeing competition with private insurers. Together with strong insurance reforms, the public option will force private insurers to compete on quality and cost. I urge the President to work with us to maintain a robust public health insurance option.
“With the President’s leadership, we will achieve health reform this year. I look forward to working with him to bring America to the 21st century along side every other major country in the world by providing affordable, quality health care for all.”
From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton:
“Over the summer, I’ve been on a listening tour to hear the ideas and thoughts of my constituents on health care reform. I’ve met with families, seniors, doctors, nurses, small business owners, and veterans and toured health care facilities throughout our area. I’ve heard from many people who want the stability of affordable health coverage but also have important questions about what current proposals will mean for them.
“Health care costs continue to increase at an alarming rate, placing too great a burden on our families and small businesses. Fiscally responsible reform will reduce costs, improve quality of care, provide security for our families and is critical to our country’s long-term economic future.
“As the discussion continues on health care reform, I’m going to consider all the input I’ve received over the past months, keep listening to people’s thoughts and ideas, and work to find uniquely American solutions to the health care system.”