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2004: Obama Claims Credit for Killing Single-Payer, Tells Critics to Read the Bill

3:59 PM, Aug 31, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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As the Chicago Sun-Times reports today, President Obama was involved in a very similar fight over health-care reform in 2004, when he was still a state senator in Illinois. Then, as now, Obama accused Republicans of "fear-mongering" and unfairly branding his proposal a form of "socialized medicine." But Obama did allow that his critics had some legitimate concerns. "The only thing that has happened here," Obama said, "and this is essentially what happened in this bill, the original bill on the House side, I think, would have legitimately raised some concerns with respect to some industry who might have been fearful that it was a mandate to introduce a single-payer plan. I modified this."

So Obama took credit for modifying the bill in response to concerns about a single-payer system. But Obama still pilloried the insurance industry, as he and his proxies have done in this latest effort at health care reform. The quote goes on,

And I have to say by the way, just to pick up on something that was raised earlier, that this is a different bill number than the original bill, it has gone through a complete restructuring from the original bill, but that initial concern that Senator Ryder said, that original cloud continued over it, because industry, and industry lobbyists, insurance lobbyists here in Springfield had been engaging in such fear-mongering among its agents, suggesting that this was a single-payer bill that in fact a lot of concerns were raised that had nothing to do with the bill that was before the body today. And what I was, what I would strongly suggest is people take the time to look at the three-page bill that is before them as opposed to some of the mischaracterizations (of) this legislation that have been raised by others.

In 2004, Obama encouraged his critics to read the legislation before commenting on it. Five years later, as Obama pushed a far more costly and far more consequential reform at the federal level, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refuses to offer a straight answer about whether Obama will even read the legislation before advocating for it to the American people or signing it into law. You can listen to Obama's speech from 2004 here:

Another audio recording from the same debate between Obama and now-Rep. Peter Roskam can found here. Obama says again that his critics should read the bill. "Every time I've debated one of the bills over on that side of the aisle, I've gone to the bill," Obama said, "and if I had serious questions about it, I would at least read the bill and talk about what's in the bill, not what's not in the bill."