Obama to Progressives: 31 Million People–And My Presidency–Are On The Line If Health Care Fails

March 4, 2010 11:26 a.m.

President Obama’s message to progressives who are dissatisfied with the Senate health care bill is two fold: First: Don’t forget about the uninsured. Second: Don’t forget what failure to pass this bill would do to the party and my presidency.

In a meeting with House progressives today, Obama made the pitch.

Speaking to reporters in the Speaker’s lobby off the House floor, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said the President reminded them that “If this opportunity passes, much of our agenda, on the progressive side…it would be difficult, if not impossible for a generation to get back to this issue.”I asked if the message was convincing to those in attendance.

“It’s pretty compelling,” Grijalva said.

That’s a significant change from his tone earlier in the week, when Grijalva said he was inclined to vote against the bill from the left.

Obama reminded the assembled Democrats that doing nothing would be politically disastrous. “To maintain a strong presidency we need to pass this bill,” the President said, according to Grijalva.

Progressives aren’t without demands of their own. They are looking for all assurances that the Senate bill won’t pass without a companion reconciliation bill amending it. Obama assured the members he sees the two bills as companions.

“We don’t want to get trapped voting for the Senate bill as is without a full understanding that what he signs, and comes to his desk, are the two pieces of legislation, and the other part being the critical part being the reconciliation,” Grijalva said.

Obama also apparently pledged to revisit the public option in the future.

Grijalva’s account was echoed by Congressional Black Caucus chair Barbara Lee, who said the President reminded them: “31 million people will have health insurance as a result of this bill.”

“Did the message resonate?” I asked.

“I think it resonates for a lot of people,” Lee said.

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