UPDATED WITH TICKET DETAILS: President Barack Obama will speak about health care Thursday at the University of Iowa’s Field House in Iowa City, marking passage of the historic legislation by returning to the place where he proposed his reform plan in 2007 while campaigning for the Democratic nomination.
Members of the general public who wish to attend the event can register for tickets at the following site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/webform/rsvp/university-iowa-100325
Doors open at 11 a.m., and the speech will begin at 1:00 p.m. Further details about the event will be given to those individuals who are selected to pick up tickets, according to the White House site.
Online ticket sign-up runs through 4 p.m. today after which “a limited number of individuals will be selected and contacted by phone regarding ticket pick-up information,” says the White House site. “Each individual selected will have the opportunity to pick up a maximum of two tickets.”
Obama will “discuss how health care insurance reform lowers costs for small businesses and American families and gives them more control over their health care,” said Matthew Lehrich, a White House spokesman.
The visit will come four days after the House approved a bill extending health care to millions of uninsured Americans and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. Obama could sign the bill as soon as Tuesday.
Obama chose Iowa City because the eastern Iowa college town was where he first offered his health care plan on May 29, 2007. Lehrich said the plan launched “a grassroots campaign for reform that led directly to the legislation passed this week.”
Obama announced his health care plan about eight months before Iowa’s caucuses, where he had a surprisingly strong win and gained the momentum that ultimately led to the Democratic nomination. In the 2008 general election, Obama easily won Iowa’s seven electoral votes.
Although Obama’s support of health care reform was key in the support he received in the caucuses, the president will find widely divergent opinions on the issue in Iowa.
All three Republican candidates for governor opposed Obama’s health care plan, with state Rep. Rod Roberts and businessman Bob Vander Plaats calling for amending the Iowa Constitution to block the measure.
Vander Plaats described it as “federalism run amok at best and, at worst, a big step toward socialism.”
GOP gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad hasn’t said whether he’d support a constitutional amendment, but he issued a statement Monday criticizing the reform plan.
“We can ill afford another trillion dollars in spending by the federal government,” Branstad said.
Democratic Gov. Chet Culver has been a strong supporter of Obama’s health care proposal.
Longtime Democratic activist Jerry Crawford said he believes support for the plan will grown in the state, and nationally, over time.
“The advantage he has is the opposition was so over the top in predicting that the world would end,” Crawford said. “Sooner rather than later people are going to figure out that the world didn’t end.”
Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford said he thought passage of the health care bill would give Obama a boost or at least avoid the mess the president would have faced if it had failed.
“If he had lost this it would have been disastrous,” said Goldford. “People would be saying that Democrats can’t govern.”
Mark Daley, a Democratic strategist who is working for Democratic Senate hopeful Roxanne Conlin, said Obama’s visit would put the spotlight on Sen. Charles Grassley.
Grassley, who is seeking a sixth term in the Senate, worked through last summer with Democrats on health care reform but eventually became a prominent opponent of the effort.
“This presidential visit is great for us because it’s going to remind Iowans of what they have in Washington,” Daley said, referring to Grassley.
Grassley issued a statement predicting the measure approved by the House would raise taxes, hurt Medicare and cause health insurance premiums to rise.
“Rather than bring the country together around some commonsense reforms, this bill has driven the country further apart, at the very time we need to come together, especially for economic recovery efforts,” he said.
Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine says members of the Secret Service have been in town since Friday preparing for Obama’s visit.
The Secret Service held a briefing with Iowa City police this past Thursday. Details of the visit haven’t yet been announced.
“We’re dusting off a lot of the old plans from previous [presidential] visits,” Hargadine said.
Hargadine said the Secret Service is “familiar” with Iowa City due to the campaign trail.
He said local traffic won’t likely be affected by the president’s visit until Thursday morning.
– The Associated Press and Jami Brinton, KCRG-TV9