From NBC's Athena Jones
CINCINNATI, OH -- President Obama gave few clues about the specifics he'll address
in his health-care speech to a joint session of Congress on Wedneday during
remarks at an AFL-CIO-sponsored Labor Day picnic this afternoon.
Before a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd, Obama
gave a campaign-style speech in which he spoke about the contributions
of the labor movement, the economy and
his own agenda.
"We're on the road to recovery, Ohio, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise,"
the president said, as he touted the measures taken to jump-start the economy.
He talked about having extended unemployment insurance and said the
infrastructure jobs being created as a result of the stimulus package, the
improved manufacturing figures and the slower pace of job losses last month
were all evidence that the steps his administration had taken to revive the
flagging economy were working.
On health care, the president joked that he didn't want to say too much on the
topic, because he wanted listeners to tune in on Wednesday night.
Instead, he spoke broadly, reiterating his oft-repeated lines about how long
politicians have been fighting for "quality, affordable health care for
every American" and how close his administration and Congress are to
achieving it. Still, he signaled that he wanted to get something done now after
months of debate.
"The debate's been good, and that's important, because we have to get this
right," Obama said. "But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it's time to decide. At some point, it's time to act. And Ohio, it's time to act and get this thing done!"
He scoffed at the scare tactics of opponents of the health-care overhaul -- such
as talk of pulling the plug on grandma or of covering illegal immigrants -- and
he repeated his challenge to those critics, saying, "What are you doing to
do? What's your answer? What's your solution?"
Incoming AfL-CIO head Richard Trumka has called the public option an
"absolute must," but the president came no closer to saying whether
he sees it as equally essential.
"I see reform where Americans and small businesses that are shut out of
health insurance today will be able to purchase coverage at a price they can
afford, " he said, "where they'll be able to shop and compare in a
new health insurance exchange -- a marketplace where competition and choice
will continue to hold down cost and help deliver them a better deal, and I
continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance
choices will help improve quality and bring down costs."
He said it was time to put aside the partisanship and "stop saying things
that aren't true" and come together to pass an overhaul now.
He closed by sharing the story of how his campaign's "fired up" slogan came to
be, leading the crowd in a chant before hitting the ropeline.
The president met briefly with Ohio union leaders and elected officials before
the remarks. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis introduced the president.