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Health Care Reform Cliffhanger; Watching the Water Rise; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Holds News Conference; President Obama Addresses Media

Aired March 19, 2010 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, let me explain to you what you are seeing here, why this is significant.

This is Representative Boccieri you're seeing here. He has just come out. He is one of about 30-plus Democrats right now who a lot of people still don't know how they're going to vote.

Well, we can cross him off the list. He just explained, he went through it in detail, if you will, made kind of a -- gave a long speech, a little bit of a reading of a news release in some ways.

Also had families there from his district explaining some of what they've been going through, the hardships they've had when it comes to their personal health care stories. And then he finally stepped back to the podium, and a lot of the reporters were waiting through all that -- sir, you didn't explain to us what your vote was going to be. And yes, he just said he is now on board, going to be voting in the House for the health care bill.

Of course, this debate goes on. It continues. We're going to be talking a whole lot about it in the next two hours.

I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for my good friend Tony Harris here on this Friday, March the 19th.

Now, the countdown is on. The major players -- I guess you could call them the three of the biggest players in this whole health care debate -- are going to be speaking live in the next hour. Supporters, opponents of this thing are lining up for battle for every single vote.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is going to be making comments shortly. We'll carry those live.

Then the president is going to be holding a rally about 11:35 Eastern Time. He's going to be in Fairfax, Virginia. We'll take that live for you as well.

And also, the House minority leader, John Boehner, he's holding a news conference later in the hour as well. We will bring you his statements as well. But Sunday is the day, expected to see the vote on health care reform, shaping up to be a bit of a cliffhanger here. Democrats counting every vote, pushing hard to sway undeclared lawmakers.

Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash is live up on Capitol Hill. Dana is up there doing the head counting like everybody else is.

So we've got one here, Dana, it appears we can cross off the list. How much closer does that now get Democrats to getting the magic number of 216?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the guy in charge of this, the House majority whip, Jim Clyburn -- in charge of this, meaning getting these votes -- he said this morning he feels that they have the big mo, but they don't have the 216, and that's important to keep in mind. But the man you just heard, John Boccieri, from Ohio, this is really an important decision politically for several reasons.

One is he is one of those classic Democrats. He had been undeclared because of the political risk for him, frankly.

He is a freshman Democrat. He is from a Republican-leaning district in a swing state of Ohio. And he was getting absolutely hammered.

He told me the other day that there was a plane dragging a banner over his district, just for an example, telling him not to vote for this health care bill. And he's just been -- the phones have been ringing off the hook, but he decided, he said today, to vote yes, and he did it in a very well-choreographed press conference with real constituents from his district with health care issues, and explained why he is changing from a previous "no" to a "yes."

And that is really, obviously, what Democratic leaders are hoping that they are going to get from many of these other undeclared Democrats, and many of these Democrats who actually did vote against the first bill and may vote yes now. And what we're hearing from a lot of them, T.J., is that they are very, very happy about what they saw yesterday with regard to the figures, the costs, and specifically the amount that the Congressional Budget Office at least says preliminarily will reduce the deficit. This bill will reduce the deficit, they say, by $138 billion.

I just interviewed just two minutes ago Betsy Markey from the state of Colorado. She is just like John Boccieri. She is a freshman from a swing district. She said now she is voting yes. She also switched her vote, and she said it is simply that number that made her decision for her.

HOLMES: All right. I thought we might have been going to some sound there. You wrapped up --

BASH: Sorry, T.J. HOLMES: -- actually what she said for us there. But it sounds like a lot of them literally have their jobs on the line, and that CBO number helped them make that decision.

One thing, though, is there anything else that's going to help them? I mean, we got the CBO numbers come in, but there is nothing else earth shattering that's going to come in. Now it's just go time right now, isn't it?

BASH: It's go time. What they're doing behind the scenes is the Democratic leadership and staff, they are going through the bill of changes to the Senate bill line by line, and they're trying to explain exactly what's in it. Again, with the goal of convincing these undecided Democrats to vote and undeclared Democrats to vote yes.

But to kind of give you a sense, also, I don't know if you can see, there's a lot of action going on here and a lot of hubbub. But down this hall is actually the House Speaker's office and also the office of the majority whip.

So it would not be surprising to see some of those undeclared members coming down this hall. The House chamber is over there -- coming down this hall into this office, because he said earlier today that he actually, just last night, started to really write down the commitments and specifically ask these House Democrats for their hard commitments, just started doing that last night. So he said he's going to have a series of meetings -- I'm sure that doesn't surprise you -- today to try to continue to lock down these members.

Some of them are going to have press conferences like you just saw, but many of them are in such politically dicey situations, they won't talk us. Frankly, they run away from us in the hallways. And if they are having -- the leadership is even having trouble getting their attention and really getting them to listen to their point of view because they're just in such a pickle politically, and in terms of the substance of this bill.

HOLMES: Well, you know it's interesting times if somebody would actually run away from you up there on Capitol Hill, Dana.

BASH: It happens all of the time, trust me.

HOLMES: It happens all the time? And some people get called into the principal's office back there behind you as well.

Dana, we are going to be in touch with you plenty during these final moments, go time, as we say, about this debate. Thank you so much. We'll talk to you soon.

BASH: Thank you.

HOLMES: And you heard her mention, Dana mention, Nancy Pelosi. We're expecting comments from her shortly. You can see reporters obviously starting to gather there, waiting on her.

When she steps out, I'm sure she might be making some news. And when she does step out, we will carry that for you live.

We do know now how much this whole thing is expected to cost. But where is that money going to come from to pay for this health care reform?

The Congressional Budget Office, the CBO, puts the estimate price tag at some $940 billion over 10 years. That's a big number. They were actually celebrating that number, just that it came in under $1 trillion.

Now, much of that money would come from an increase in the Medicare tax on high-income households. And also, for the first time, the tax could be applied to investment income as well as wages. Also, money would come from a tax on high-cost medical plans, but that would be delayed until 2018. Another source, penalties for those who don't get health insurance coverage.

(NEWSBREAK)

HOLMES: Well, a nervous wait along the Red River. It seems like they have the same wait every year, don't they?

High floodwaters. We're getting -- look at these photos from our iReporter showing just how serious the situation is right now.

These are from Pat McLaughlin in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Folks there are hoping sandbags and dikes will do the job and hold that water back.

Meanwhile, in Fargo, the river inching closer to last year's record level. That was almost 41 feet. But it's expected to crest this weekend just shy of that mark.

Moorhead, just across the river from Fargo, and CNN all-platform journalist Chris Welch is there.

Chris, we know it's expected to crest just below that record level, but that's still a lot.

CHRIS WELCH, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST: You're right. That is still a lot, and as you can see, the water is still rising.

I mean, I think you can see over my shoulder, there's a few street signs that are just barely -- the water is almost overtaking them. I should point out, we're at a very low point here right along the river. The rest of the city does not look like that.

But just to give you more of an idea of what the city's going through right now, you know, last year they had the record flood. And we talk about lessons learned. Last year was the year when they basically felt like it was all or nothing.

They put up a good fight and they overcame it. So, this year they say, you know what? This crest is probably going to be about three feet less. We think we'll be able to take this one. And the sense of urgency is not quite the same as it was last year. HOLMES: Not quite the same. Also, they are, quite frankly, used to this. They do this all of the time. When I say all of the time, they do this every year.

Do they pretty much have this down to a science as far as how to prepare for this every single year?

WELCH: They are used to this. You know, you ask people, "What do you keep on hand?" "Well, we've got four, five, six pumps. We've got our boats handy."

I talked to a couple of people yesterday. I went down south, south of Fargo, and they have to boat from their cars out in a field to their House because it's on an island now.

So, this has become basically second nature to them, because for them, four times in the last 10 years they've had to use a boat just to get to their front door. So this really has become a way of life, particularly in the last 15 years. It's just been a wet season, meteorologists say, and this is -- well, they're used to it.

HOLMES: They are used to it. It's amazing. People always say, why do you stay, why do you keep living there? And a lot of those folks say there's nowhere else they would rather be.

Our Chris Welch for us there.

Thank you so much. We'll be checking in with you again soon.

We're also going to be checking in with our meteorologist, Bonnie Schneider. She is here. She is working. She's working hard.

We see what you're doing over your shoulder there, Bonnie.

She's going to be with us here in just a few minutes to tell us about the forecast and a closer look at that water level.

Also, you need to know what we have on tap here. In the next few minutes we're expecting to see live the head Democrat over in the House, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker. Expected to come out and make some comments about the health care. Maybe she'll give us an update on where the numbers are in the headcount among Democrats trying to get to that 216 to pass that health care bill. We'll hear from her.

We're also expecting to hear from the president coming up about 11:35. So about -- what is that, 25, 20-plus minutes from now? He's going to be speaking, making another pitch, another push, last minute, for his health care reform bill.

He is actually going to be now far from the White House in Fairfax, Virginia, at the campus of George Mason University, speaking there. When he steps out, you'll certainly hear from him live from that campus.

And also, the man who says he's doing just about everything he can to stop the bill. He'll be speaking out again today as well. You'll hear from him live. We're talking about the minority leader, John Boehner.

But first, give you a quick look at what's happening on Wall Street.

The Dow, the number is down some 40 points. We've still got time to rally. Still early yet.

Stay with us. We're right back after a quick break.

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HOLMES: And a reminder to our viewers right now. We're standing by waiting to hear live from the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Going to give us an update on where they are in getting to that 216 number for passing that health care reform bill.

Also, the president, expecting him in about 20 minutes to speak on the campus of George Mason University.

Well, you will not miss either of those events. However, Pelosi speaking at the same time as the president. The president trumps the Speaker, ,so you'll hear from him, of course.

Now, a lot of you out there are struggling with your taxes. We might be able to help. Not going to promise anything here though, but we are getting some answers to your tax questions.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: All right. We're going to get you some tips right now. But, oh, wait -- is that the Speaker I just see step to the podium?

We're going to get back to tax tips in a second. We told you we were waiting to see Nancy Pelosi. There she is. Let's go ahead and listen in to the Speaker.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: -- the traditional St. Patrick's Day luncheon with the president of the United States that originated with Speaker O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan, and has been expanded to include the (INAUDIBLE) of Ireland. And we had that event and observed St. Patrick's Day, as all Americans do.

Today is the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, particularly significant to Italian-Americans. And it's a day where we remember and pray to St. Joseph to benefit the workers of America. And that's exactly what our health care bill will do.

I'm very excited about the momentum that is developing around the bill. You are -- some of you were present earlier in the week when we started with little children and babies as young as 6 weeks old to talk about what it means to them.

Moving on to young people a couple of days ago, to seniors, to women, to small businesses, this is very important legislation. So we are, again, as I say to you every time I see you, one day closer to passing historic legislation which will make history, of course, but progress for the American people.

You see behind me an array of organizations, significant organizations who are supporting health care reform. That list grows by the moment.

Since it was printed, the AFL-CIO has given its firm endorsement. The Catholic Hospital Association has endorsed the legislation.

I'm pleased that we got a letter from -- representing 60 leaders of religious orders, sisters. I'm pleased to say the school sisters of Notre Dame and the sisters of Notre Dame Moore -- two sisters that taught me in my life -- were on the list. But every order that you can think of was there saying that they wanted to pass -- wanted us to pass this life-affirming legislation.

So, as I say, that list goes on, and certainly with more to come with the release yesterday of the CBO figures. Now people have seen the bill, have seen the score. The list of supporters grows, and that score -- let me get back to for a moment -- 32 million Americans insured.

Over $1.3 trillion in deficit reductions, in savings for the American people. Accountability for the insurance companies, affordability for the middle class, accessibility for many, many more people.

It is all of those things, but it's also liberating legislation that frees Americans to live their passion, reach their aspirations without being job-locked -- job-locked because they have to have health care, especially if they have someone in their family with a pre-existing condition. It's about jobs, four million new jobs created, several hundred thousand -- four million in the life of the bill, several hundred thousand almost immediately. And it is -- it's pretty exciting for us.

In six months of enactment, no child in America can ever be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As the bill comes into effect, no longer will there be caps on what you can receive, but there will be caps on what you pay in.

The reforms in the bill are very -- the health insurance reforms are very significant. We talk about money in the bank. When we talk about the deficit savings, the more than $1.3 trillion in savings, but we have a storied bank with millions of stories of American families who have suffered because of the unfair treatment they have received from insurance companies.

The American people have played on the turf of the insurance companies for far too long. It is now time for them to play on the turf of the American people. Our members know that. They are committed to a healthier America, and a healthier America that is achieved also by making us more fiscally sound as we reduce the deficit, as we improve quality, expand coverage and hold the insurance companies accountable.

I would be pleased to take any questions.

Yes?

QUESTION: In the fall, as you know, the night before the vote, your side went to the rules committee. Mr. Stupak had an amendment which was made in order in the Rules Committee, and that was the order of the day on that Saturday.

Will we expect to see a similar effort in the next 24 to 48 hours as abortion and the pro-life Democrats on your side of the aisle try to work something out? I've heard something about possibly doing a corrections bill. Can you illuminate us on any of that?

PELOSI: No, I haven't heard any of that. What I have heard about is that this bill is about health care, not about abortion, that we all agree that there should be no federal funding of abortion. That is the law of the land, and that it is -- where there should be no expansion of abortion, a woman's right one way or another to diminish or expand that right.

So, if you don't want federal funding and you want the status quo for abortion access, and you want to pass the health care bill, this is it. There are members who may be talking, and I know, as you referenced, Mr. Stupak has talked about something, but that's -- right now we're just getting votes to pass a bill.

QUESTION: There are a number of members --

PELOSI: I'm trying to not do the same people every day. So if I look over you, it's because -- we have the Williamsburg rule in our caucus. If you spoke yesterday, you're probably not going to speak today.

QUESTION: I didn't get a chance yesterday. I'm glad.

PELOSI: I know.

QUESTION: There are a number of members from states that there were corrections to Medicare disparities in the House bill that have been taken out.

PELOSI: Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. DeFazio, for one, from Oregon, says that his state is getting nothing, they're being treated unfairly, and that right now he is a "no" unless that is corrected.

Is there any fix possible in the reconciliation package for states that feel they're being shortchanged on Medicare money?

PELOSI: Well, without subscribing to the representation that --

HOLMES: All right. You're listening in to the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi who, of course, is doing a headcount and trying to get all her ducks, or Democrats, in a row right now to try to get to that magic number of 216.

They're having a briefing, answering some questions now. We're going to continue to listen in to the Speaker there. She talked about that list of supporters she has behind her, and actually saying now that more organizations she expects to come out and support the bill because of what we saw with the CBO numbers coming in, scoring the bill under $1 trillion and saying it will reduce the deficit by some $138 billion over the next 10 years. So that was good news for Democrats.

The top Democrat, President Obama, we're expecting to hear from him in about 10 minutes. There is a picture there live. This is George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, not too far outside of Washington, D.C.

If we can go ahead and take that picture full, I'm trying to get a closer look. It sounds like they were starting to -- a little movement, people starting to get a little rowdy. So maybe he's close to coming out.

So what we're going to try to do is get a quick break in now, and maybe by the time we come back the president will be stepping out to speak. Again, making one more public push for his health care reform.

You will see him when he comes out. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: I promise you guys we're going to get to those tips, but I want to remind you again, the president, we see him actually coming out into the crowd. He's expected to speak here in just a few minutes.

It's going to take him a few minutes to try to get up to the podium. Maybe it won't take so long after all.

But the president is here at the Patriot Center at George Mason University, a place that can hold about 10,000 folks. This is where they play the Patriot basketball games. But the president there.

This was an open event, and he's there to speak to that crowd and to the American people about his health care reform. The president, who made a pitch on Monday, who is making another pitch here on Friday before we expect to see a vote this weekend on the health care bill.

And there he goes, which has become the custom. He takes that jacket off, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work essentially trying to sell his health care reform. But the president, it appears -- we know he's probably going to introduce a few people, say a few things.

You know what? You guys want to go ahead and just start listening at the top here? We'll go ahead and listen to the president as he tries to quiet the crowd down here just a bit.

He'll have some thank-yous and whatnot before he gets to the meat of what he's saying today. But the president, of course, and Democrats, they got a bit of good news from the CBO scoring their health care bill. It came in under $1 trillion. So maybe he decided to put this on the schedule to come out, maybe building out some momentum, possibly, at least on the Democratic side, feeling that they maybe can get to that magic number of 216 in the House to approve a bill this weekend, a bill that the Senate already passed essentially with a few changes.

But here's the president now. Let's go ahead and listen in.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, George Mason!

(APPLAUSE)

How's everybody doing today?

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. It's good to be back with some real Patriots.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank Dr. Alan Merten, the President of George Mason University, and his family.

(APPLAUSE)

Dr. Shirley Travis, who's here -- thank you. And Coach Larranaga, we were just talking a little bit about --

(APPLAUSE)

-- looking forward to picking George Mason in my bracket next year.

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!

OBAMA: I love you!

(APPLAUSE)

I don't know if some of you remember, but I visited this university about three years ago for the first time.

(APPLAUSE) This was at just the dawn of my presidential campaign. It was about three weeks old, I think. We didn't have a lot of money. We didn't have a lot of staff. Nobody could pronounce my name.

(LAUGHTER)

Our poll numbers were quite low. And a lot of people -- a lot of people in Washington, they didn't think it was even worth us trying.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes we can!

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: They had counted us out before we had even started, because the Washington conventional wisdom was that change was too hard. But what we had even then was a group of students here at George Mason --

(APPLAUSE)

-- who believed that if we worked hard enough and if we fought long enough, if we organized enough supporters, then we could finally bring change to that city across the river.

(APPLAUSE)

We believed that despite all the resistance, we could make Washington work. Not for the lobbyists, not for the special interests, not for the politicians, but for the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

And now three years later, I stand before you, one year after the worst recession since the Great Depression, having to make a bunch of tough decisions, having had a tumultuous debate, having had a lot of folks who were skeptical that we could get anything done. And right now, we are at the point where we are going to do something historic this weekend. That's what this health care vote is all about.

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

OBAMA: A few miles from here, Congress is in the final stages of a fateful debate about the future of health insurance in America.

(APPLAUSE)

It's a debate that's raged not just for the past year but for the past century. One thing when you're in the White House, you've got a lot of history books around you.

(LAUGHTER)

And so I've been reading up on the history here. Teddy Roosevelt, Republican, was the first to advocate that everybody get health care in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

Every decade since, we've had Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon to JFK to Lyndon Johnson to -- every single President has said we need to fix this system. It's a debate that's not only about the cost of health care, not just about what we're doing about folks who aren't getting a fair shake from their insurance companies. It's a debate about the character of our country --

(APPLAUSE)

-- about whether we can still meet the challenges of our time; whether we still have the guts and the courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to reach their dreams.

(APPLAUSE)

At the heart of this debate is the question of whether we're going to accept a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people --

(APPLAUSE)

-- because if this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run amok. They will continue to deny people coverage. They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. And that's why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak, and pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. And that's why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill.

So the only question left is this: Are we going to let the special interests win once again?

AUDIENCE: No!

OBAMA: Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American people?

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can!

OBAMA: George Mason, the time for reform is right now.

(APPLAUSE)

Not a year from now, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now -- it's now.

(APPLAUSE)

We have had -- we have had a year of hard debate. Every proposal has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. We have incorporated the best ideas from Democrats and from Republicans into a final proposal that builds on the system of private insurance that we currently have. The insurance industry and its supporters in Congress have tried to portray this as radical change.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I just -- I just want to be clear, everybody. Listen up, because we have heard every crazy thing about this bill. You remember. First we heard this was a government takeover of health care. Then we heard that this was going to kill granny. Then we heard, well, illegal immigrants are going to be getting the main benefits of this bill. There has been -- they have thrown every argument at this legislative effort. But when it -- it turns out, at the end of the day, what we're talking about is common-sense reform. That's all we're talking about.

(APPLAUSE)

If you like your doctor, you're going to be able to keep your doctor. If you like your plan, keep your plan. I don't believe we should give government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America. I think it's time to give you, the American people, more control over your health.

(APPLAUSE)

And since you've been hearing a whole bunch of nonsense, let's just be clear on what exactly the proposal that they're going to vote on in a couple of days will do. It's going to -- it's going to change health care in three ways. Number one, we are going to end the worst practices of insurance companies.

(APPLAUSE)

This is -- this is a patient's bill of rights on steroids.

(LAUGHTER)

Starting this year, thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions will be able to purchase health insurance, some for the very first time.

(APPLAUSE)

Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions.

(APPLAUSE)

Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping your coverage when you get sick.

(APPLAUSE)

And they've been spending a lot of time weeding out people who are sick so they don't have to pay benefits that people have already paid for. Those practices will end.

If this reform becomes law, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers.

(APPLAUSE)

If you buy a new plan, there won't be lifetime or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care you receive from your insurance companies.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, to all the young people here today, starting this year if you don't have insurance, all new plans will allow you to stay on your parents' plan until you are 26 years old.

(APPLAUSE)

So you'll have some security when you graduate. If that first job doesn't offer coverage, you're going to know that you've got coverage. Because as you start your lives and your careers, the last thing you should be worried about is whether you're going to go broke or make your parents broke just because you get sick.

(APPLAUSE)

All right?

So that's the first thing this legislation does -- the toughest insurance reforms in history. And by the way, when you talk to Republicans and you say, well, are you against this? A lot of them will say, no, no, that part's OK.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, so let's go to the second part.

The second thing that would change about the current system is that for the first time, small business owners and people who are being priced out of the insurance market will have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress give to themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

So what this means is, is that small business owners and middle- class families, they're going to be able to be part of what's called a big pool of customers that can negotiate with the insurance companies. And that means they can purchase more affordable coverage in a competitive marketplace.

(APPLAUSE)

So they're not out there on their own just shopping. They're part of millions of people who are shopping together. And if you still can't afford the insurance in this new marketplace, even though it's going to be cheaper than what you can get on your own, then we're going to offer you tax credits to help you afford it -- tax credits that add up to the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in American history.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, these tax credits cost money. Helping folks who can't afford it right now, that does cost some money. It costs about $100 billion per year. But most of the cost --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: That's all right.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Well, here's the reason it's all right.

(LAUGHTER)

Here's the reason it's all right. It wouldn't be all right if we weren't paying for it -- and by the way, that's what a previous Congress did with the prescription drug plan. All they did was they gave the benefits and they didn't pay for it.

That's not what we're doing. What we're doing is we're taking money that America is already spending in the health care system, but is being spent poorly, that's going to waste and fraud and unwarranted subsidies for the insurance companies, and we're taking that money and making sure those dollars go towards making insurance more affordable.

(APPLAUSE)

So we're going to eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to set a new fee on insurance companies that stand to gain millions of new customers.

(APPLAUSE)

So here's the point: This proposal is paid for. Unlike some of these previous schemes in Washington, we're not taking out the credit card in your name, young people, and charging it to you. We're making sure this thing is paid for.

(APPLAUSE)

All right, so that's the second thing.

Now, the third thing that this legislation does is it brings down the cost of health care for families and businesses and the federal government.

(APPLAUSE)

Americans who are buying comparable coverage in the individual market would end up seeing their premiums go down 14 to 20 percent.

(APPLAUSE)

Americans who get their insurance through the workplace, cost savings could be as much as $3,000 less per employer than if we do nothing. Now, think about that. That's $3,000 your employer doesn't have to pay, which means maybe she can afford to give you a raise.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, if you're curious, well, how exactly are we saving these costs? Well, part of it is, again, we're not spending our health care money wisely. So, for example, you go to the hospital or you go to a doctor and you may take five tests, when it turns out if you just took one test, then you send an e-mail around with the test results, you wouldn't be paying $500 per test. So we're trying to save money across the system.

(APPLAUSE)

And altogether, our cost-cutting measures would reduce most people's premiums. And here's the bonus: It brings down our deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades.

(APPLAUSE)

So you've got -- you've got a whole bunch of opponents of this bill saying, well, we can't afford this; we're fiscal conservatives. These are the same guys who passed that prescription drug bill without paying for it, adding over $1 trillion to our deficit -- "Oh, we can't afford this." But this bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office -- which is the referee, the scorekeeper for how much things cost -- says we'll save us $1 trillion. Not only can we afford to do this, we can't afford not to do this.

(APPLAUSE)

So here's the bottom line. That's our proposal: toughest insurance reforms in history, one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history, and the opportunity to give millions of people -- some of them in your own family, some of the people who are in this auditorium today -- an opportunity for the first time in a very long time to get affordable health care. That's it. That's what we're trying to do.

(APPLAUSE)

That's what the Congress of the United States is about to vote on this weekend.

Now, it would be nice if we were just kind of examining the substance, we were walking through the details of the plan, what it means for you. But that's not what the cable stations like to talk about.

(LAUGHTER) What they like to talk about is the politics of the vote. What does this mean in November? What does it mean to the poll numbers? Is this more of an advantage for Democrats or Republicans? What's it going to mean for Obama? Will his presidency be crippled, or will he be the comeback kid?

(APPLAUSE)

That's what they like to talk about. That's what they like to talk about. I understand.

One of the things you realize is basically that a lot of reporting in Washington, it's just like SportsCenter. It's considered a sport, and who's up and who's down, and everybody's keeping score. And you got the teams going at it. It's Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, let me say this, George Mason: I don't know how this plays politically. Nobody really does. I mean, there's been so much misinformation and so much confusion and the climate at times during the course of this year has been so toxic and people are so anxious because the economy has been going through such a tough time. I don't know what's going to happen with the politics on this thing. I don't know whether my poll numbers go down, they go up. I don't know what happens in terms of Democrats versus Republicans.

But here's what I do know. I do know that this bill, this legislation, is going to be enormously important for America's future.

(APPLAUSE)

I do know the impact it will have on the millions of Americans who need our help, and the millions more who may not need help right now but a year from now or five years from now or 10 years from now, if they have some bad luck; if, heaven forbid, they get sick; if they've got a preexisting condition; if their child has a preexisting condition; if they lose their job; if they want to start a company -- I know the impact it will have on them.

(APPLAUSE)

I know what this reform will mean for people like Leslie Banks, a single mom I met in Pennsylvania. She's trying to put her daughter through college, just like probably some of your moms and dads are trying to put you through college. And her insurance company just sent her a letter saying they plan to double her premium this year -- have it go up 100 percent. And she can't afford it. So now she's trying to figure out, am I going to keep my insurance or am I going to keep my daughter in college? Leslie Banks needs us to pass this reform bill.

(APPLAUSE)

I know what reform will mean for people like Laura Klitzka. I met Laura up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, while I was campaigning. She thought she had beaten her breast cancer. Then she discovered it had spread to her bones. And she and her insurance -- she and her husband, they were lucky enough to have insurance, but their medical bills still landed them in debt. So now she's spending time worrying about the debt when all she wants to do is think about how she can spend time with her two kids. Laura needs us to pass this reform bill.

(APPLAUSE)

I know what reform will mean for people like Natoma Canfield. When her insurance company raised her rates, she had to give up her coverage, even though she had been paying thousands of dollars in premiums for years, because she had beaten cancer 11 years earlier. They kept on jacking up her rates, jacking up her rates. Finally she thought she was going to lose her home. She was scared that a sudden illness would lead to financial ruin, but she had no choice. Right now she's lying in a hospital bed, faced with paying for such an illness, after she had to give up her health insurance. She's praying that somehow she can afford to get well. She knows that it is time for reform.

So George Mason, when you hear people saying, well, why don't we do this more incrementally, why don't we do this a little more piecemeal, why don't we just help the folks that are easiest to help -- my answer is the time for reform is now. We have waited long enough.

(APPLAUSE)

We have waited long enough.

And in just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote.

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We've had historic votes before. We had a historic vote to put Social Security in place to make sure that our elderly did not live out their golden years in poverty. We had a historic vote in civil rights to make sure that everybody was equal under the law.

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As messy as this process is, as frustrating as this process is, as ugly as this process can be, when we have faced such decisions in our past, this nation, time and time again, has chosen to extend its promise to more of its people.

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You know, the naysayers said that Social Security would lead to socialism.

(LAUGHTER)

But the men and women of Congress stood fast and created that program that lifted millions out of poverty. (APPLAUSE)

There were cynics that warned that Medicare would lead to a government takeover of our entire health care system, and that it didn't have much support in the polls. But Democrats and Republicans refused to back down, and they made sure that our seniors had the health care that they needed and could have some basic peace of mind.

(APPLAUSE)

So previous generations, those who came before us, made the decision that our seniors and our poor, through Medicaid, should not be forced to go without health care just because they couldn't afford it. Today it falls to this generation to decide whether we will make that same promise to hardworking middle-class families and small businesses all across America, and to young Americans like yourselves who are just starting out.

(APPLAUSE)

So here's my bottom line. I know this has been a difficult journey. I know this will be a tough vote. I know that everybody is counting votes right now in Washington. But I also remember a quote I saw on a plaque in the White House the other day. It's hanging in the same room where I demanded answers from insurance executives and just received a bunch of excuses. And it was a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, the person who first called for health care reform -- that Republican -- all those years ago. And it said, "Aggressively fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords."

Now, I don't know how passing health care will play politically -- but I know it's right.

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Teddy Roosevelt knew it was right. Harry Truman knew that it was right. Ted Kennedy knew it was right.

(APPLAUSE)

And if you believe that it's right, then you've got to help us finish this fight. You've got to stand with me just like you did three years ago and make some phone calls and knock on some doors, talk to your parents, talk to your friends. Do not quit, do not give up, we keep on going.

(APPLAUSE)

We are going to get this done. We are going to make history. We are going to fix health care in America with your help.

(APPLAUSE)

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE) HOLMES: The President of the United States and what is probably a familiar scene to you. If you haven't seen it in some time when he was out on the campaign trail, but just stop and imagine that. Candidate Obama on the college campus surrounded by young people, energetic. That is what President Obama is doing today. Being the salesman and chief at a college campus there in George Mason University, standing at the Patriots Center where the basketball team plays.

The place can hold about 10,000 people, 3,000 students on campus, and probably all of them tried to get into this event but an energetic group of folks, and he is appealing to them and appealing to the American people one more time on his health care reform package.

Now, at the bottom of your screen, we'll go ahead and bring that up. That is the Minority Leader in the House, John Boehner. He's taking questions from reporters. Let's go ahead and listen in live.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: -- It's also clear that the class act, the new long-term care program, is -- that started in this bill, takes the premiums that are supposed to be saved for benefits down the road. They're going to use those premiums to pay for the new health care entitlement program, and then, they're going to take about $70 billion worth of social security increases, and not use it for social security, they're going to use it to pay for this new entitlement program, and if that isn't enough, they take the $67 billion in savings from the government takeover of the student loan industry, and all 49 states, except one, and they use that savings from the student loan program to offset the cost of this program.

And there's not one American who thinks that we're going to save money with this, because they all know we're going to spend a trillion dollars here in the first ten years to provide benefits for just six of those ten while the tax increases will come in over the ten-year period. The American people do not want any part of this. And if anyone thinks the American people are going to forget this vote, just watch. See you.

HOLMES: That pretty much sums it up there at the end. That's the Minority Leader John Boehner talking about his health care reform package. And he summed it up for you the way that many Republicans right now are viewing this. They think the American people are not going to forget this vote. You are starting to see kind of a drumbeat, kind of some momentum, and even some energy from the Democrats thinking that maybe they are going to get to the number they need to pass this health care reform package over the weekend.

And Republicans, you hear him there, maybe taking a different stance. Not so much thinking that they're going to be able to defeat the bill, but do believe they'll be able to defeat democrats at the polls in November. Saying the American people are not going to forget this. You heard the president before that, again, at George Mason University. I'm not sure if you still had that picture. Sometimes, it takes them a while to get out of there, especially with about 10,000 screaming young people. There is the picture. Right there.

You see everybody trying to get their pictures in, but the President definitely sounding like a candidate, even appealing to the crowd of young people there to go out and knock on doors, to pick up the phones. Campaign is what he is putting a lot of these folks on right now, to help him not get elected this time, but this time to get his health care reform package through.