President Obama addresses crowd in Iowa City - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

President Obama addresses crowd in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) – Hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama, people were lining up outside the University of Iowa Field House on Thursday morning. Many of them, like Vernita Morgan, were excited to see him take the stage.

"I caught the early bus, and we got here about 6:15," said Morgan.

She found it meaningful that President Obama was coming back to Iowa City, the very location in which he kicked off his push for health care reform nearly three years ago.

"I think it's so appropriate for him to announce it here initially, and to come back to the citizens of Iowa City and let us know that…it's been a long road, but we're there, and moving forward. Full speed ahead."

Others, like Natalie Ginty, took to the streets to send the president a message: that they don't support the legislation he signed into law earlier in the week.

"We just want to make sure people know that not all of us are for the legislation that was passed on Sunday," explained Ginty, a member of the University of Iowa College Republicans.

But no matter the political affiliation or views on health care reform, it was difficult to ignore the palpable excitement inside the Field House, as President Obama finally took the stage.

"Hello, Iowa!" he yelled, stirring the crowd. "It is good to be back in Iowa!"

He took a light tone at the outset, reflecting on his decision to pick Kansas over the University of Northern Iowa, in their recent NCAA Tournament face-off.

"The president of Northern Iowa came here," Obama laughed, "and he had this big smile, and was gloating." He went on to say that since UNI ruined his bracket, he'll be cheering for them the rest of the way. After that, it was on to more a more serious subject: the health care reform bill he signed into law on Tuesday.

"What this is, is a historic step to enshrine the principle that everybody gets health care coverage in this country."

President Obama admitted that the legislation isn't perfect, going on to call it a "middle of the road" bill. But, he says it's a step in the right direction for the American people.

"It doesn't do everything that everybody wants, but it moves us in the direction of universal health care coverage in this country, and that's what everybody here fought so hard for!"

But not everyone was happy with what the president had to say. One member of the crowd continually shouted, "what about the public option?" until the president addressed him directly.

"That's not in it!" said the president. "Why not?" the man replied. "Because we couldn't get it through Congress," the president explained.

He assured critics that they will eventually see the reform for what it isn't – a government takeover of the U.S. health care system. "They'll see that if Americans like their doctor, they'll be keeping their doctor. You like your plan? You'll be keeping your plan."

He made it clear that the new law will not cut health care costs overnight. "There are still aspects of the health care system that will be very frustrating over the next several years," he explained. However, he told the crowd that parts of the bill will take effect this year, including tax credits for small businesses to help cover employee health insurance costs.

He also took time to address what he called, "fear mongering and overheated rhetoric," from critics of the bill.

"After I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling," joked the president, causing many to laugh. He challenged Republicans threatening to repeal some provisions of the overhaul. "If these congressmen in Washington want to come here into Iowa and tell small business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits, and essentially raise their taxes, be my guest."

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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