In his most unequivocal terms yet, President Barack Obama championed the use of budget reconciliation to approve a final motion on the extensively-debated health care reform legislation stalled in Congress.
"So, no matter which approach you favor, I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform," Obama said in a televised speech Wednesday. "We have debated this issue thoroughly, not just for a year, but for decades."
Flanked on stage by doctors in white coats, he noted that both chambers of Congress have passed the legislation, before declaring, "And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts -- all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority."
Obama's statement comes after months of hesitation over supporting the use of the procedure to bypass a likely GOP filibuster. He touted the inclusion of various Republican ideas in his bill, saying that the time for talk is over.
"Many Republicans in Congress just have a fundamental disagreement over whether we should have more or less oversight of insurance companies," he claimed, saying the GOP should simply "vote against the proposal I've put forward."
"And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law. Let's get it done."
The procedural tool known as budget reconciliation seems to be the Democrats' only feasible route to enacting the bill. It will allow the Senate to amend the legislation it passed in December with a 51-votes majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority, before the House of Representatives can approve one last motion. If it succeeds, the president can sign it into law.
"Every argument has been made," he said. "So now is the time to make a decision about how to finally reform health care so that it works."
Republicans have strongly urged Democrats to scrap the current plan and start over. Not a single GOP lawmaker in the House or Senate is expected to vote for the legislation.
A Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll released this month found that 57 percent of Americans agree and want Congress to start from scratch on the issue, The Hill reported.
The president defended some of the vigorous criticisms from Republicans regarding his plan, particularly the claim that it would afford the federal government greater control over individuals' medical decisions.
"If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," Obama promised. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Because I can tell you that as the father of two young girls, I wouldn’t want any plan that interferes with the relationship between a family and their doctor."
This video is from MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, broadcast March 3, 2010.