Image: President Obama delivers remarks to healthcare reform meeting.
Shawn Thew  /  EPA
President Barack Obama argued Thursday that a sweeping overhaul of the nation's broken health care system is imperative for the nation's future economic vitality. staff and news service reports
updated 2/25/2010 6:03:01 PM ET 2010-02-25T23:03:01

President Barack Obama argued Thursday that a sweeping overhaul of the nation's broken health care system is imperative for the nation's future economic vitality, clashing in an extraordinary live-on-TV summit with Republicans who want far more modest changes.

The debate led to some lively exchanges among the Congressional lawmakers, who aired their disagreements, often pointedly, for the viewing audience. Here are some of the most notable quotes from the event:

Can Obama and Republicans reach an accord?
"This is a car that can't be recalled and fixed and ... we ought to start over." — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

"We want you to succeed, because if you succeed, our country succeeds," — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

“Rather than start at the outset talking about legislative process and what’s going to happen in the Senate and the House and this and that… let’s talk about the substance: How we might help the American people deal with costs, coverage, insurance, these other issues. And we might surprise ourselves and find out that we agree more than disagree. And that would then help to dictate how we move forward. It may turn out on the other hand there’s just too big of a gulf.” — President Obama

"We all agree on prohibiting insurance companies from arbitrarily canceling insurance policies. That's a no-brainer. There's strong agreement on both sides of the aisle." — Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La.

“This will take courage to do.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

A ‘broken’ system – and bankruptcy ahead
"Right now, it's projected that premiums for families with health insurance -- not people without health insurance, but with health insurance -- will almost certainly double over the next decade, just as they doubled over the past decade.” — President Obama

“If all we’re doing is adding more people to a broken system then costs will continue to skyrocket, and eventually somebody is going to be bankrupt, whether it’s the federal government, state governments, businesses or individual families." — President Obama

“In 2008, about 750,000 bankruptcies were filed. About 70 percent of those bankruptcies were filed because of health care costs. Eighty percent of the people who filed for bankruptcy because of health care costs had health insurance. America is the only country in the world where if you get sick or hurt, you’re going to have file for bankruptcy.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

“Everybody here understands the desperation that people feel when they're sick. And I think everybody here is profoundly sympathetic and wants to make sure that we have a system that works for all Americans,” — Obama

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Video: Democrats give health reform the hard sell

The costs of action or inaction
"I even have one constituent -- you will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true -- her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit." — Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.

"Harvard just completed a study that shows 45,000 Americans die every year because they don't have health insurance, almost 1,000 a week in America." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

"We can't afford this. That is the ultimate problem here." — Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.

Whom do you trust?
“There are [consumer protections] in every state…. Do we distrust our governors? Do we distrust our state legislatures?.... Should people in Washington decide exactly how this works and what [insurance] you can and cannot buy?” — Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

"We do not agree about the fundamental question about who should be mostly in charge ... There's so much in the bills that you've supported that puts control in Washington. We have a very difficult time supporting those provisions." — Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

“People are angry. We promised them change in Washington,” — Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona

“The health insurance industry is the shark that swims just below the water and you don’t feel that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark.” — Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V.

We must cut costs – but how?
“Doctors are risk averse to the tort system and the extortion system that’s out there today.” — Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

“I’m talking about changing the school lunch program [so that] it meets the nutritional needs of Americans. Changing the food stamp program [so that] it incentives people to eat the right things and not the wrong things. We actually create more diabetes through the food stamp program and the school lunch program than probably any other thing….” — Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

“What I would hope we would do is go back and concentrate on the areas that have the biggest pot of gold for us.” — Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

“If we going to eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare, it does mean we’re going to cut some of that out…. We don’t want to cut the good stuff…. If one-third of Medicare [spending] doesn’t go to patient care, you can’t just get up there and say ‘we don’t want to cut anything out of Medicare.’ We want to cut the bad stuff and keep the good stuff.” — Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Another concern I have is the Senate bill, which on page 982 creates an unelected board charged with recommending even more Medicare reductions. And if Congress doesn't accept these recommendations, they have to find other Medicare spending to cut instead. And that gives, I think, too much authority to unelected bureaucrats rather than to elected representatives of the people and the power to decide whether to cut Medicare and by how much.” – Rep. Dave Camp, D- Mich.

How the Senate bill was created
The Senate bill “was produced behind closed doors. It was produced with unsavory – I say that with respect – deal-making. The Louisiana purchase, finding of $300 million for one state; the Cornhusker Kickback which I understand how has been done away with. One of the provisions in this legislation that was particularly offensive was the carve-out for 800,000 Florida seniors exempt from cuts in the Medicare Advantage program. There’s 330,000 seniors under Medicare Advantage in my home state of Arizona – they deeply concerned about that….” — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.” — Obama
“I’m reminded of that every day.” – McCain

Who's who in the health care debate

How to pass the Democrats’ bill
“No one has talked about reconciliation [which requires only 51 votes in the Senate] but that's what you [Republican] folks have talked about ever since that came out, as if it's something that has never been done before. Now, we as leaders here, the Speaker and I, have not talked about doing reconciliation as the only way out of all this. Of course it's not the only way out. But remember, since 1981 reconciliation has been used 21 times.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

"I do think [the American people] want a vote on how we're going to move this forward … A majority vote makes sense.” — President Obama

What do Americans want?
"If you think they want a government takeover of health care, I would simply submit you’re not listening to them.” —  Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

"The American people want us to scrap this bill. They said it loud and they said it clear." — Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio

"If we think it's important as a society to not leave people out, then we're going to have to figure out how to pay for it" — President Obama.

Concerns about preexisting conditions
“I want to start by talking about a young man by the name of Jesus Gutierrez. He works hard. He has a restaurant in Reno, Nevada. He had everything that he wanted, except a baby. He had health insurance. He had employees that liked him. But he was fortunate -- they were going to have a baby and it was going to be a little girl. And the baby was born, and in just a few minutes after the birth of that baby, he was told that the baby had a cleft pallet. ‘But that's okay,’ he was told. ‘We can take care of that.’ And they did. They did some surgery on the baby; he was happy -- that is, Jesus was happy -- until he got his mail four months later, opened the envelope, and the insurance company said, ‘We didn't realize that your baby had a preexisting disability. We're not covering the $90,000 in hospital and doctor bills you've already run up.’ So he's trying to pay that off. The baby needs a couple more surgeries. This shouldn't happen to anyone in America.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

On insurance companies dropping those with preexisting conditions, “It is cruel, it is capricious and it is done only to enhance the bottom-line." — Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.

A comprehensive or incremental approach?
"An incremental approach is like a swimmer who's 50 feet offshore drowning and you throw him a 10 foot rope. And you say, well, it didn't reach him but we'll get it back and we'll throw him a 20 foot rope next time. Then we'll throw him a 30 foot and a 40 -- by that time, the swimmer has drowned." —  Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa

© 2013

Video: Health care summit summons political drama

  1. Closed captioning of: Health care summit summons political drama

    >>> "nightly news" begins now.

    >>> good evening. if you were so inclined, you could have spent your whole day watching live television coverage of a health care summit from washington . it featured around one table and in one room the president of the united states and leaders of congress from both parties. the white house pushed for it because they feel their man, the president, is good at this sort of thing. and while it was a live tv show, it also may have a big impact on the future of health care for every american or things could keep going the way they have been. we begin our coverage tonight with our white house correspondent savannah guthrie . good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. leading up to this summit, senior aides here said they didn't expect it to change everything. the question tonight is, did it change anything? with just a short walk across the street to blair house --

    >> looking forward to listening.

    >> reporter: the all-day televised summit showed the long way the president has to go to bridge the divide over health care .

    >> i hope that this isn't political theater where we are just laying to the cameras and criticizing each other.

    >> reporter: the democrats' strategy appeared to be reasonable.

    >> we are actually quite close. there is not a lot of difference.

    >> we may be closer together than people really think.

    >> i think we agree with most of them.

    >> reporter: but republicans disgreed about agreeing. distancing themselves from the democrats' bill.

    >> there are some fundamental differences between us here that we cannot paper over.

    >> we don't think all the answers lie in washington regulating all of this.

    >> there is a reason why we all voted no.

    >> reporter: looking to resuscitate his key domestic initiative, the president invited 39 members of congress selected by the republican and democratic congressional leadership, to debate the fine points of health care policy. how to pay for it, who should be covered, how to rein in escalating health care costs.

    >> i would like the republicans to do a little soul searching and find out are there some things that you would be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance .

    >> reporter: not every disagreement today was on substance.

    >> at this point the republicans have 22 minutes , the democrats 52 minutes. let's try to have as much balance as we can.

    >> i'm just going back and forth here, mitch.

    >> reporter: tonight the key difference remains, whether to do a big comprehensive health care bill or proceed bit by bit.

    >> our country's too big, too complicated, too decentralized for washington , a few of us here to write a few rules about remaking 17% of the economy all at once.

    >> an incremental approach is like a swimmer who is 50 feet offshore drowning and you throw him a 10-foot rope.

    >> reporter: in a reprise of the 2008 campaign, senator john mccain accused the president of negotiating the bill behind closed doors .

    >> what we got was a process that you and i both said we would change in washington .

    >> we're not campaigning anymore. the election is over.

    >> i'm reminded of that every day.

    >> reporter: well, with no major breakthroughs, the president hinted at the close of the session he is looking to democrats now to go forward and the voters will have the final verdict on what they do, brian.

    >> all right, savannah guthrie on the white house lawn. this


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