Former President Barack Obama, while accepting an award for exhibiting political courage during his two terms in office, called on members of Congress to buck against partisanship as they consider legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare."
On May 7, Obama accepted the Profiles in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. During his remarks, the former president commended the Democratic lawmakers who had voted for the ACA in 2010 and promptly lost their seats during that year's midterm.
"These men and women did the right thing," Obama said, according to NPR. "They did the hard thing. Theirs was a profile in courage."
"As everyone here knows, this great debate is not settled, but continues," Obama continued, according to Reuters. "And it is my fervent hope, and the hope of millions that, regardless of party, such courage is still possible. That today's members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts party positions."
On March 2, Obama was announced as the recipient of the 2017 Kennedy Profile in Courage. The Kennedy Library Foundation had not selected Obama for a single political act but for his entire presidency, The Washington Times reports.
The foundation stated that it would reward Obama on the 100th celebration of Kennedy's birth for upholding "the highest standards of dignity, decency and integrity, serving not just as a political leader, but a moral leader, offering hope and healing to the country and providing young men and women of all backgrounds with an example they can emulate in their own lives."
During Obama's acceptance speech, the former president called on members of Congress to "recognize it takes little courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential -- but it takes some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm, those who often have no access to the corridors of power.”
The former president noted that the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts had been an advocate for universal health care years before the passage of the ACA.
"There was a reason why health care reform had not been accomplished before," Obama concluded. "It was hard, it involved a sixth of the economy and all manner of stakeholders and interests. It was easily subject to misinformation and fearmongering."
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, the only GOP lawmaker in attendance, suggested that the American Health Care Act that had passed in the House would undergo dramatic changes in the Senate.
"I wouldn't expect the House bill to come through intact," Flake told Politico.