President Obama implored member his own party to continue forging ahead with his agenda during the State of the Union address on Wednesday night even as electoral and legislative setbacks have caused internal strife.
"To Democrats," the president said, in one of the speech's most poignant moments. "I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills."
Earlier in the address, the president tailored the very same message to the topic of health care reform.
"Here's what I ask of Congress," he said, in a line that seemed directed at the Democratic side of the chamber. "Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people."
At another point, he offered a line that seemed inserted for the purposes of calling out those centrist members who held up reform for their provincial interests.
"Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can," he said. "The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators."
It was as passionate as the president got when it came to discussing the his top legislative priority. Obama did stress that he remained open to good ideas that could accomplish top reform priorities such as expanding coverage, lowering costs, saving Medicare. He also championed the deficit-lowering features of the bills being considered. Citing data from the Congressional Budget Office, he declared: "Our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades."
For that he earned swift applause from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been pushing Democrats to more prominently feature the fiscal components of health care reform.
Obama's message wasn't solely directed at members of his own party. For Republicans, he added, if "leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership."
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