Sen. Al Franken's wit came in handy this morning as he tried to raise the spirits of members of hundreds of grassroots health care reform advocates.

"I think we all thought this gathering today would be a celebration," he said. "Well, it may not be a celebration, but it's not a funeral either," he said.

From that moment, Franken called for those present to keep fighting for the cause and not to give up so close to victory.

"The opponents of reform have found their bumper sticker, their slogan, their rallying cry, it's one word: No. You can read that on a bumper," Franken told the members of Families USA, drawing laughs. "Our bumper sticker has — it's just way too many words. And it says, "'Continued on next bumper sticker.'"

While Franken acknowledged there were some parts of the Senate bill he does not agree with, he said that called for the House to pass it, with the understanding that Congress would then "fix" the bill through the process of budget reconciliation which only needs a simple majority.

"We have to stop letting perfect be the enemy of the merely very good. And I believe that the bill we passed in the Senate is a very good foundation on which to build," he said. He highlighted several "very good" aspects of the Senate bill, including his medical-loss ratio provisions, which would require that 85 percent of premiums be spent on actual health care costs, not profits and overhead.

Franken acknowledged that the Democratic loss in the U.S Senate race in Massachusetts was a setback, but reiterated Obama's words in the State of the Union speech Wednesday night that this is not the time to give up.

"If they did anything, it helped remind us of why we're doing this in the first place. They reminded us of how hard it is, how truly hard it is, to bring about big change in America. And they reminded us of what we're up against. And they reminded us about how close we are to the biggest health care victory in half a century."


Senator Al Franken spoke at the annual conference of Families USA, a non-profit health care advocacy group.



Hayley Tsukayama is an intern at the Star Tribune's Washington bureau.

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