Obama Makes Moral Case for Health Reform

WASHINGTON ~ President Barack Obama said this week that America, as the world’s richest nation, had a moral duty to offer healthcare to everyone, in a fresh bid to bolster support for his top domestic priority.

Obama addressed an estimated 140,000 people on a call sponsored by 30 progressive religious denominations as the White House tried to still disquiet among liberals, and opposition among Republicans, to his health reform plan.

“The one thing you all share, is a moral conviction, you know, that this debate over healthcare goes to the heart of who we are as a people,” Obama said on Wednesday on the call also including his domestic policy director Melody Barnes.

“I believe that nobody in America should be denied basic healthcare because he or she lacks health insurance,” Obama said, after calling into a webcast including clergy and believers of Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish orders.

“No one in America should be pushed to the edge of financial ruin because an insurance company denies them coverage,” Obama said.

Obama hit out at what he branded “fabrications” whipped up by opponents of his policy, including claims that it would expand abortions, give healthcare to illegal immigrants and ration end-of-life care.

“These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation.

“That is that we look out for one another, that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper,” Obama said, using a phrase drawn from the Bible.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele dismissed Obama’s call as a gimmick, saying it was evidence the White House was running scared.

“President Obama is frantically struggling to shore up his base,” Steele said.

“The religious left talks about their desire for ‘social justice.’ No bill that funds abortion or strips healthcare services away from seniors and low-income Americans can or should be considered just,” he said.

The White House earlier denied it had given up wooing Republican support for Obama’s plan, following reports Democrats may go it alone.

“The president has said countless times he will work with anybody in any party that wants to work constructively on healthcare reform,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Expectations that the Democrats would fall back on their majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the bill were fanned by several media reports late on Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The New York Times quoted White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as saying the Republican leadership had made a strategic decision to defeat healthcare reform, Obama’s signature domestic initiative.

But Gibbs said Obama was committed to engaging with Republicans in pursuit of a bipartisan measure.

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