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Presidential Pep-Talk

The President attended the Senate Democratic Caucus retreat today, and explicitly urged the body to move on health reform while also fielding questions from the group. Below are excerpts from his commentary, and go here to see to the meeting in full (HCR at 11:, 18:, and 37:, and Barbara Boxer at 49: ).

“I’m reminded that when it came to the health insurance reform in particular, I sought out and supported Republican ideas from the start. So did Max Baucus…I think he can testify to spending a little time listening to Republican ideas, you considered hundreds of Republican amendments and incorporated many of their ideas into the legislation that passed the Senate. So when I start hearing that we should accept Republican ideas, let’s be clear: we have. What hasn’t happened is the other side accepting our ideas. And I told them I want to work together when we can, and I meant it. And I believe that’s the best way to get things done for the American people. But I — I also made it clear that we’ll call them out when — when they say they want to work with us and we extend a hand and get a fist in return…I would just suggest to this caucus, if anybody’s searching for a lesson from Massachusetts, I promise you the answer is not to do nothing.

So many of us campaigned on the idea that we were going to change this health care system. So many of us looked people in the eye, who had been denied because of a pre-existing condition or just didn’t have health insurance at all or small-business owners in our communities, who told us that their premiums had gone up 25 percent or 30 percent. And we said we were going to change it.

Well, here we are with a chance to change it. And all of you put extraordinary work last year into making serious changes that would not only reform the insurance industry, not only cover 30 million Americans, but would also bend the cost curve and save a trillion dollars on our deficits, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

There’s a direct link between the work that you guys did on that and the reason that you got into public office in the first place. And so as we think about moving forward, I hope we don’t lose sight of why we’re here. We’ve got to finish the job on health care.”

I also wanted to mention another addition to the FY2011 federal budget, which will extend Cobra coverage for workers who lose their job through the end of 2010. The budget would subsidize 65% of the premiums and could continue for up to 12 months. The program has become increasingly popular since the its inception in the stimulus bill, improving enrollment of eligible employees from 19% to 39%.