On the cusp of a key legislative push, President Barack Obama on Monday filled the Rose Garden with doctors supportive of his health care overhaul, saying "nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do."
Obama's White House event gave him another chance to frame the debate on his terms as his top domestic priority enters its most critical phase.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve its long-debated, intensely scrutinized bill this week. Then, Senate Democratic leaders will meld it with a more liberal-leaning version passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The House also must combine differing versions of its own bills.
For a visual plug from some medical pros, the White House arranged for Obama to have some 150 doctors representing all 50 states arrayed in the sunsplashed lawn area just outside the West Wing. To make sure no one watching at home or catching news footage later would miss the point, the physicians wore their white medical coats for the cameras.
"When you cut through all the noise and all the distractions that are out there, I think what's most telling is that some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the health care system best," said Obama, flanked by four doctors on stage for good measure.
The president broke no ground in his comments. He outlined the tenets of his health reform plan: expanded and affordable health coverage options for tens of millions of people, strengthened protections for those who already have insurance, and more time for health professionals to help patients with preventative and healing care.
Obama said the country has heard all sides of the debate over the last few months and the time to act is now.
"I want to thank every single doctor who is here," Obama said. "And I especially want to thank you for agreeing to fan out across the country and make the case about why this reform effort is so desperately needed. You are the people who know this system best. You are the experts."
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