WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sees both "unprecedented consensus" from outside Congress on his drive to remake the nation's health care system and obstructionism by some on Capitol Hill.
"The historic movement to bring real, meaningful health insurance reform to the American people gathered momentum this week as we approach the final days of this debate," Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet video address.
The consensus "includes everyone from doctors and nurses to hospitals and drug manufacturers" – even Republican governors and former GOP lawmakers, Obama said.
It does not extend to congressional Republicans, however, as nearly all of them oppose the Democrats' health care proposals.
The president noted that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist, all Republicans, and former Health and Human Service chiefs Louis Sullivan and Tommy Thompson, who both served in Republican administrations, have all come out in favor of overhauling health care, even though they differ on some specifics.
Dole said in an interview on the Fox News Channel late in the week that he has not endorsed any plan but is recommending that congressional Republicans "stay in the game" so they can have more impact on the final legislation through compromise and amendments.
"These distinguished leaders understand that health insurance reform isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue that demands a solution," Obama said.
Democrats have made significant strides since Labor Day, when they returned to the Capitol after an August spent absorbing attacks from noisy conservative critics over health care.
A health care bill soon to emerge from the Senate Finance Committee is the only one judged to meet Obama's conditions for expanding insurance coverage without raising the federal deficit, while also slowing the rise in medical costs.
Yet Obama said he recognized the issue remains divisive among members of Congress.
"There are some in Washington today who seem determined to play the same old partisan politics, working to score political points, even if it means burdening this country with an unsustainable status quo," Obama said. That "status quo" includes rising health care costs, diminishing coverage and arbitrary decisions by big insurance companies, he said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell differs with Obama's views on cooperation.
"I've spoken about reform 44 times on the Senate floor on the need for health care reform," McConnell said. "But higher premiums, higher taxes, and more government? That's not reform. And this is precisely the problem Americans have identified with advocates of the administration's health care plans."
In the the Republican radio address, Sen. George LeMieux of Florida acknowledged deep problems with the health care system, but cautioned "the solution should not be worse than the problem we are trying to solve."
"We in the Congress have a duty to tackle this problem, but the solution we settle upon should not be rushed," LeMieux said in the GOP's weekly address. Democrats maintain Republicans are simply trying to delay action.
LeMieux said the Democrats' approach would:
_cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years, more than twice the total for the Senate Finance Committee's bill, as projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
_add a new tax burden by penalizing those who do not buy health insurance.
_deny millions of people the choice of health plans that best suit their needs by forcing them onto Medicaid.
_take about $500 billion out of Medicare.
"Taking money from a program already in financial trouble is not responsible," LeMieux said. "It's not fair to our seniors who paid into the program, and it's not fair to our children and grandchildren who will be burdened with massive debt obligations."
On the Net:
Obama address: http://www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/user/gopweeklyaddress