Obama Makes Closing Argument for Health Care Reform

Barack Obama

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - It was March 15th, but President Obama showed no signs that he should "beware the Ides of March."

On the contrary. For the 3rd time in 8 days, he got up a full head of rhetorical steam to make the case that Congress must act now to finally get a health care bill to his desk.

His voice rising to a decibel-busting crescendo, he implored Congress to show "some courage"

"I don't know about the politics," he said "But I know what's the right thing to do. And so I'm calling on Congress to pass these reforms - and I'm going to sign them into law."

It's his hope that'll happen by Sunday at 10:00 A.M., the time he's scheduled to leave on a weeklong trip to Indonesia, Australia and Guam. He was supposed to depart on Thursday, but he delayed the trip three days in the hope it'll give him more time to jawbone and arm-twist the last of the Democratic votes he needs in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate health care bill.

In a recreational center in this suburb of Cleveland, it sounded as it he were making his closing arguments in the longest-running political drama of his presidency.

"We have debated this issue now for more than a year. Every proposal has been put on the table. Every argument has been made."

On the Sunday shows yesterday, two of his top advisers said they were confident the votes would be there when the bill comes up for a vote.

"It's just politics are getting in the way of actually getting it done," said Mr. Obama to his audience.

With his suit jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, the president spoke again of Natoma Canfield, the cancer patient who wrote him of how she could no longer afford the rising cost of health insurance. She was supposed to introduce him at today's event, but she is back in the hospital, diagnosed with leukemia.

"I'm here because of Natoma," said Mr. Obama. "I'm here because of countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges in their lives with the added burden of medical bills they cannot pay."

He cited her story as making the case for overhauling the system of health insurance coverage in America.

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"That's why we need health insurance right now," he said to cheers and applause, "health insurance reform right now."

He said Congress owes the American people "a final up or down vote."

"It's time to vote," he declared.

"We need courage!" shouted a member of the audience, and the president agreed.

"We need courage," he repeated."

But it's not a lack of courage that has kept him from getting the health care plan he wants. It's growing doubt about "health care reform" and whether it's what the American people really want and whether if might backfire on Democrats in the midterm elections in November.

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Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.
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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.