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« Pitt Hits The Capitol | Blog Home Page | Ehrlich Fixing For A Rematch? »

Kennedy, Obama Say Now Is The Time For Health Care Reform

Sen. Ted Kennedy - or is it Sir Edward Kennedy? - stole a bit of the president's spotlight at the closing session of his health care summit this afternoon. The Lion of the Senate, returning to Washington after some time in Florida for cancer treatment, received a raucous welcome as he accompanied President Obama into the East Room.

"That's the kind of greeting a knight deserves," Obama said.

Kennedy spoke briefly, praising the president's effort to finally achieve what has been one of his major goals, while vowing to be "a foot soldier" in that fight.

"I join with all of those that feel that this is the time - now is the time for action," he said. "I think most of us who have been in this room before have seen other times when the House and the Senate have made efforts, but they haven't been the kind of serious effort that I think that we're seeing right now. ... This time we will not fail."

Obama fielded a number of friendly comments and guarded questions, primarily from members of Congress but also some medical experts and representatives of the business community. There were some lighter moments, though a similar exercise last month at the end of the fiscal summit provided more highlights, including the aback and forth between Obama and John McCain.

As he closed the session, Obama assured lawmakers that while he has some "very strong ideas" about how a final health care reform should look, he didn't want to "get in the way" of the Congress as they played their part.

"But the one thing that I've got to say here," he added. "There's been some talk about the notion that maybe we're taking on too much. That we're in the midst of an economic crisis, and that the system is overloaded, and so we should put this off for another day."

Health care efforts failed "when times were good," and during other recessions, when the nation was at war and in peace time, he said.

"It strikes me that now is exactly the time for us to deal with this problem," he said. "For all of you who've been elected to office, or those of you who are heading up major associations, I would just say, what better time than now. And what better cause for us to take up."