THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY CHIEF OF STAFF LEON PANETTA
The Roosevelt Room
12:12 P.M. EDT
MR. PANETTA: If I can have your attention. First of all, we really want to thank everyone here and all of the groups that you represent for the support that you've provided, for the guidance you've provided, for the work and for the commitment that all of you have put in to bringing health care to this point.
I think all of us agree that we are at a very historic moment here in terms of the health care debate. Sixty years have gone by and we've not been able to bring health care bills to the floor of the House or the Senate. Within these next 10 days we are going to have votes on a House bill that is going to ensure universal coverage. We're going to pass a Senate bill, we'll have a Senate bill that is on the floor moving toward universal coverage, dealing with the kind of goals that we've been fighting for for that period of time.
The only reason that's happened is because the people in this room have never backed off for the goal of getting health care reform in place. We appreciate that. We thank you for it. But we are now at the point where we really need your work and your effort to get it through these next five yards. That's the name of the game. As all of you know, those of you who have worked the Hill before, it comes down to the last five yards. And that's where we're at, and we cannot back off. If we work together, if we stick together, if we continue to push as a team, we can get this done.
There are a lot of people working the other side, as all of you know, and they're getting paid a hell of a lot more than the people in this room. (Laughter.) But the fact is -- they're getting paid a hell of a lot more than I am -- but the fact is that they've done that before on a number of issues but in the end the voice of the people will be heard on this one. And that's what I'm asking is that we continue to punch, continue to work because I think this country and all of us recognize that history is on our side on this issue.
Q Mr. Panetta, how do you think the Whitewater hearing and all of the difficulty right now will reflect on this and make it harder for the President to get what he wants --
MR. PANETTA: Health care is number one and that's what this meeting is about. And that's, frankly, what the country cares about.
Q But won't it be damaged by all these difficulties - -
MR. PANETTA: If nothing else it's all background noise. What the people really care about is health care. (Applause.)
END12:15 P.M. EDT