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Originally published December 12, 2009 at 8:53 PM | Page modified December 16, 2009 at 11:18 AM

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300 rally for Obama health-care plan in Occidental Park

Hundreds of supporters rally for Obama's health-care proposals in Seattle's Occidental Park.

Seattle Times staff reporter

They gathered, 300 strong, in Seattle's Occidental Park to rally for President Obama's health-care overhaul.

"The most humane way is to give everyone the same set of benefits and pay for it together," said U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, speaking to the crowd. "Obama is creating a house of health. We're going to get a bill."

The Seattle rally was one of nine statewide Saturday put on by Organizing for America, a group formed by Obama and now a project of the Democratic National Committee. The organization is working to support Obama's agenda, including health-care reform.

McDermott, a Seattle Democrat and one of the state's leaders in health-care reform, predicted that a health-care bill will go to a House-Senate conference committee in early January and a final bill will pass in early February.

A House member since 1989, McDermott said he plans to run for re-election next year, in part to make sure health-care changes are fair, particularly that people aren't excluded from coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

"This is the biggest social change in the country in 75 years," McDermott said. He said there hasn't been such a change since the introduction of Social Security in 1935. Clapping his hands together in the chill, McDermott told the crowd, "The people in Washington need to know you've come out in 20 degrees."

Those at the rally waved their signs, "Health Care Can't Wait," and volunteers collected Christmas cards addressed to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, urging the Washington Democrats to continue to support health-care reform.

Those at the rally acknowledged that if Congress passes a health-care bill, it might not be perfect.

"If we have to compromise now, we'll compromise," said Kathy Cummings, with the Washington State Labor Council. "But we haven't stopped fighting."

"It's taking us too long to address it," said Seattle mayor-elect Mike McGinn. "But now it's within reach."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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