WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) introduced President Obama today at the Democratic Caucus meeting in advance of tomorrow's expected vote on health insurance reform legislation. Below are his remarks.
“Mr. President, welcome. We’re pleased to have you here. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, little did you and I realize when you were a capitol cop and I was working down in the basement of the Russell Building that we would be on this stage with President Obama. I had a good job. He had a good job, he said.
"And, of course, in that office in which I worked, there was a young lady who also worked there. Her name was Nancy. And this was pre-Paul wedding. Not necessarily pre-Paul, but pre-Paul wedding. And little did we realize, Nancy, that you and I would be here at this historic time, to participate with our colleagues in this extraordinary effort.
“America is watching us. Some would say this is a partisan effort. They’re wrong. This is an effort on behalf of all Americans.
“George W. Bush, in 2002, said and I quote, ‘All Americans should be able to choose a health care plan that meets their needs at affordable prices.’
“Bill Clinton said, ‘The time has come to pull together and work in a bipartisan manner to deliver guaranteed health care coverage to all Americans.’
“[Jimmy Carter, in 1979,] said, ‘A universal, comprehensive, national health insurance program is one of the major unfinished items on America’s social agenda. The American people,’ he said in 1992, ‘have waited too long.’
“Gerald Ford, in 1974, said, ‘Let us affirm that this national legislation is only the beginning of our effort to upgrade and perpetuate this part of our total health care system so no individual in this country,’ said President Ford, ‘will lack help whenever or wherever he needs it.’
“John F. Kennedy said, in 1962, ‘Whenever the miracles of modern medicine are beyond the reach of any group of Americans, for whatever reason--economic, geographic, occupational or other--we must find a way to meet their needs and fulfill their hopes.’
“Dwight David Eisenhower, in 1955, said, ‘Clearly our nation must do more to reduce the impact of accident and disease. Two fundamental problems confront us: first, high and ever-rising costs of health services; second, serious gaps and shortages in these services.’ So said Dwight Eisenhower in 1955.
“And in 1945, Harry Truman said, ‘Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health …. The time,’ he said, ‘has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.’
“And then another President said this: ‘Comprehensive health insurance is an idea whose time has come in America. There has long been a need to assure every American financial access to high quality health care. As medical costs go up, that need grows more pressing. Now, for the first time,’ this President said, ‘we have not just the need, but the will to get this job done.’ He went on to say, ‘There is widespread support in the Congress and in the Nation for some form of comprehensive health insurance…. [L]et us act sensibly. And let us act now--in 1974--to assure all Americans financial access to high quality medical care.’
“Our President talks about the fact that Theodore Roosevelt put this on America's agenda over a century ago. Barack Obama went to the people of this country and reached out to them and said, ‘If you elect me President of the United States, this is what I will do.’ There were no illusions of what he would do. There was no trying to hide it. It was transparent, and indeed, in the debate in October of 2008, he said exactly what he was going to do. And John McCain stood on that same stage and said, yes, I believe every American ought to have access to affordable health care. All of the presidents I just quoted tried to get something done, and it was not done. On Sunday, tomorrow, we will do it. Led by our President, who said to the American public, this is our moment. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”