Obama tries to dampen Medicare fears

President Obama on Monday kicked off what the White House promised would be an intense week of lobbying for healthcare reform with an emotional speech in Strongsville, Ohio, accusing opponents of trying to "hoodwink" seniors and offering a vigorous defense of the proposal's impacts on Medicare.

The president's remarks on Medicare reflected the White House concern over the strong opposition of senior citizens to his proposed overhaul, as seen in many public opinion polls.

"The opponents of reform have tried a lot of different arguments to stop these changes. But maybe the most insidious is the idea that somehow this would hurt Medicare," Obama said.

He insisted the healthcare proposal would be good for older Americans and for the Medicare system. "Every senior should know: There is no cutting of your guaranteed Medicare benefits. Period. No ifs, ands or buts," the president said. "Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or is trying to misinform you. Don't let them hoodwink you. They are trying to hoodwink you."

Obama said he hopes to save money in Medicare. "But that's because these are dollars that should be spent on care for seniors, not the care and feeding of insurance companies through subsidies and sweetheart deals," he said.

The president's remarks came as the legislation entered what could be the decisive week in the debate. The White House has set a goal of moving the bill through Congress this week, but Democrats don't have the votes they need to move the bill in the face of united Republican opposition.

Democratic congressional leaders, while not ruling out action this week, are aiming to have the bill wrapped up before lawmaker's leave for the Easter recess this month.

While Obama spoke in Ohio, the House Budget Committee was preparing to mark up the bill and send it to the House Rules Committee, where changes to the Senate bill will be inserted.

Republicans kept up their all-out assault on the bill, on the floor of the Senate and in Capitol news conferences.

House Rules ranking member David Dreier, R-Calif., said it was "very painful and troubling to see the gymnastics to which [Democrats] are going to avoid accountability." He declined to say whether Republicans would push for an amendment cracking down on abortions or to discuss other possible tactics that might be used as part of the GOP's endgame.

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