WASHINGTON • Former US president Barack Obama has called on members of Congress to show "political courage" and defend the work his administration did to extend healthcare coverage to 20 million Americans.
Mr Obama was speaking in Boston after receiving the Profile in Courage Award, presented on the 100th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's birth, and his remarks marked a rare foray into the day-to-day political scrum. During the 45-minute speech, his second since he left office, he praised the courage of single mothers who made sacrifices for their children and soldiers who put their lives on the line for strangers.
But he focused largely on the healthcare debate that is roiling the United States following the passage in the House of the Affordable Health Care Act last Thursday. The move is one step in the process of repealing Mr Obama's landmark healthcare law.
Mr Obama praised the courage of freshman lawmakers who voted for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, knowing that it might put their seats and political careers at risk. "These men and women did the right thing," he said yesterday. "They did the hard thing... and most of them did lose their seats."
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As the legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act moves to the Senate, Mr Obama called on Republican and Democratic lawmakers to demonstrate similar courage to ensure that vulnerable Americans do not lose access to care.
"This great debate is not settled but continues, and it is my fervent hope - and the hope of millions - that regardless of party, such courage is still possible," Mr Obama said.
He did not explicitly call on senators to defend Obamacare, but rather he exhorted them to stand up for those who are most vulnerable.
"I hope that current members of Congress recognise that it takes little courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential," he said. "But it takes great courage to champion the vulnerable, the sick and the infirm" and those "with no access to the corridors of power".
Mr Obama's speech marked the second time that he has weighed in on politics since leaving office.
He was still on vacation in January when he issued a statement urging Americans to protest President Donald Trump's executive order banning citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries - as well as refugees from across the world - from entering the US.