President Barack Obama's universal healthcare program started as a fleeting comment in January 2007, because he "needed something to say" for a speech at a healthcare conference, it has been revealed.
He only later committed to the idea reluctantly after Sen. Ted Kennedy made it a condition of endorsing him for president, Politico reports
Politico says Obama had not announced his White House run when he was asked to speak at the Families USA conference. He considered turning down the invitation but two aides, Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau, suggested he could talk about plans to overhaul health insurance.
"We needed something to say," one adviser involved in the discussion told Politico. "I can't tell you how little thought was given to that thought other than it sounded good. So they just kind of hatched it on their own. It just happened. It wasn't like a deep strategic conversation."
But by July 2008 with the election campaign heating up, and against the advice of aides based on negative polling data, Obama was insisting that passing a universal healthcare plan was his top domestic priority, Politico says.
"You know, I plan to do healthcare, I plan to make my first year about healthcare. So you guys need to figure out how to sell it," said the president, an official present at the time told Politico.
Obama pressed ahead with his commitment to the plan and in September 2009 made a prime-time address on healthcare to a joint session of Congress during which he also recited a moving line from a letter he had received from Kennedy just before the senator's death the previous month.
"What we face is above all a moral issue," Kennedy had said in the letter. "That at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."
The speech, according to Politico, energized Democratic lawmakers in the House to pass a bill in November, followed by the Senate's passage on Christmas Eve. It was signed into law in March 2010.
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