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Obama returns to Iowa to sell health care

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Health care 'your victory'
  • President challenges GOP to try to rescind law
  • Remarks came as Senate passed package of changes to law
  • In Iowa he first announced health care plan "launching grassroots reform" in 2007

Iowa City, Iowa (CNN) -- President Obama hit the road Thursday to sell the merits of the newly enacted health care law, telling an enthusiastic Iowa crowd that the measure will lead to greater economic security for most Americans.

"This is your victory," Obama said at the University of Iowa. Health care reform "was about the future of our country. And today ... that future looks stronger and more hopeful and brighter than it has in some time."

The crowd, in turn, repeatedly chanted Obama's campaign theme: "Yes, we can."

Obama made his remarks as the Senate passed a package of changes to the health care law. Congressional Democrats have promised to approve the changes before the end of the week.

In the "years to come, health care inflation, which has been rising about three times as fast as people's wages, will start slowing," Obama said. "We'll start reducing the waste in the system, from unnecessary tests to unwarranted insurance subsidies. So over time, Americans will save money."

The reform plan is a "common sense" law that politically is the "middle of the road," Obama asserted.

"It finally tells the insurance companies that in exchange for all the new customers they're about to get, they have to start playing by a new set of rules that treat everyone fairly and honestly. The days of the insurance industry running roughshod over the American people are over."

The president threw down the political gauntlet to Republicans, daring them to run in the midterm elections on a promise of rescinding the new law.

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"They're actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November," he said. "Well, I say go for it. ... If they want to have that fight, I welcome that fight. Because I don't believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver's seat. We've been there already, and we're not going back. This country's moving forward."

Obama's speech was part of a White House plan to begin aggressively selling the benefits of his health care overhaul and give some political cover to Democratic lawmakers jittery about their political futures, according to Democratic officials familiar with the strategy.

The president is expected to make many such trips in the weeks ahead, following up on promises to push back on Republican attacks in the months leading up to November's midterm elections, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the emerging White House strategy publicly.

Obama first launched his grass-roots campaign for a health care overhaul in a May 2007 visit to Iowa City.

Obama's victory in the January 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses boosted him into front-runner status along with Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, a fight he ultimately won.

CNN's Ed Henry, Alan Silverleib and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.