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Obama to Congress: Get It Done Already

No more meetings. No more compromises. Pass a final health care reform bill within the next three weeks.

That was the message President Barack Obama handed down to Congressional Democrats on Wednesday in his latest and most aggressive push yet to get health care reform done — and without Republicans.

“Every argument has been made. Everything there is to say about health care has been said and just about everyone has said it. So now is the time to make a decision about how to finally reform health care so that it works,” Obama said in a speech at the White House aimed at rallying Democrats to pass a bill now.

From here on out, the president’s role will revert to being a cheerleader as the onus falls on Congressional Democrats to transform Obama’s $950 billion health care blueprint into legislation and clear it in both chambers.

It is no surprise that Obama is backing the use of reconciliation to avert a GOP filibuster in the Senate and pass an overhaul with just 51 votes. The procedure appears to be the only chance Democrats have left to pass a bill.

Also not a surprise was the Hill reaction to Obama’s speech.

Republicans, who have hated the Democratic health care reform drive from the start and have decried the use of reconciliation as an abuse of power, pounced on Obama’s ambitious road map.

“It is abundantly clear that the president and the Democratic leadership are calling upon their Members to ignore the wishes of the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said Obama’s speech was “very disappointing” and blasted his plan to “jam [a health bill] through with a partisan vote.”

Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, called it “terribly upsetting” that Obama will try to pass health care via reconciliation and said, “It didn’t have to be this way.”

Democratic Hill leaders, who are framing their plan as bipartisan since it includes GOP proposals on tort reform and Medicare fraud and abuse, threw their support behind Obama’s renewed push for action. Democrats, who have struggled to contain intraparty battles on the issue, have complained for months that Obama didn’t do enough to help push health care reform through. Now, Members are welcoming his heavy-handedness.

“This is a bipartisan proposal and it deserves bipartisan support. ... Republicans have been included in this process and now they have a responsibility to work with us to make reform succeed,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Still, Reid signaled that Democrats are ready to move forward without Republicans, by adding, “We’ll use every option available to deliver meaningful reform this year.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Obama’s proposal “combines the best ideas of Democrats and Republicans.”

Of course, Pelosi also got in a jab at the key differences between the two parties in their ideas: “Democrats believe we must hold insurance companies accountable in order to rein in premiums, insure 30 million more Americans and protect patients and consumers nationwide. Congressional Republicans disagree.”

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