Obama calls energy, health plans evidence of change
By Darlene Superville
WASHINGTON — President Obama says agreement on an energy bill and a promise by interest groups to squeeze trillions of dollars in savings from the healthcare system show that change has come to Washington.
Some of those most opposed to past attempts at healthcare overhaul pledged last week to reduce the annual rate of growth in such spending by 1.5 percentage points, for a promised savings of $2 trillion in the next decade.
Weeks of negotiations have led to the introduction in the House of an energy plan that, for the first time, would mandate reductions in the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and shift the country toward cleaner energy sources.
Obama campaigned for president on a promise to change the way Washington works.
He said yesterday in his weekly radio and Internet address that he was heartened by the "willingness of those with different points of view and disparate interests to come together around common goals, to embrace a shared sense of responsibility and make historic progress."
Obama singled out utility companies and health insurers, doctors and hospitals for coming to the table.
"I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk, that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it," he said. "This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change."
Both agreements, in the long term, will strengthen an economy experiencing its worst days since the Great Depression, Obama said.
The climate bill will help create millions of jobs producing wind turbines and solar panels, and developing alternative fuels with the goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources, he said. Controlling healthcare costs will make businesses more competitive and give families more money to save or spend.
Republicans said they agree with Obama that the healthcare system needs an overhaul. But they warned against offering consumers an option for health insurance that would be run by the government and replace employer-based coverage, saying it could have "devastating consequences" such as limits on care and higher taxes.
"A government takeover of healthcare will put bureaucrats in charge of healthcare decisions that should be made by families and doctors," Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana said in the Republican radio and Internet message.
"It will limit treatment options and lead to rationed care. And to pay for government healthcare your taxes will be raised," said Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon and member of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group. "That is something we cannot support, and frankly, it would clearly violate some of the principles the president himself has endorsed."
Obama said during an appearance in New Mexico last week that his goal is to improve the existing system, not replace it.