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Obama’s Health Event Largely Steers Clear of Debate

For the first time in nearly two weeks, President Barack Obama on Wednesday held a health care event, but he devoted almost none of it to his health care reform initiative. Instead, the president, who appeared at the National Institutes of Health, focused his remarks mainly on an announcement that $5 billion of the stimulus bill would be devoted to federally supported medical research.

Obama has been essentially AWOL from the health care reform campaign trail since a Sept. 17 rally in College Park, Md. The president was sidetracked last week by appearances at the United Nations General Assembly and the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Obama briefly commented on critics who accuse him of seeking to “socialize— medicine, scoffing that President Franklin Roosevelt had been accused of the same thing. Otherwise, he spent the event touting what he said was “the single largest boost to biomedical research in history,— one that would focus research money on areas like applying the human genome to cancer research and aiding in the treatment of autism.

While the money will have little immediate effect, Obama justified it as stimulative by saying it would eventually provide “tens of thousands of jobs— in laboratories and help provide a basis for long-term growth.

“From the beginning, our goal has been to rescue the economy while laying a new foundation for lasting economic growth,— Obama said.

Present at the event was Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), a major booster of NIH funding whom Obama is aggressively backing to win the Pennsylvania Democratic primary for his Senate seat.

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