March 22, 2010: Congress Passes Health Care Bill


President Obama delivers remarks following the health care vote


  • House passes Democratic changes to health bill: The House has passed key changes to its just-approved overhaul of health care legislation. The changes are part of a prearranged agreement to guarantee passage of the historic legislation. The changes passed by a 220-211 vote. That bill now goes to the Senate for final approval, where it only requires a simple majority to pass…. – AP, 3-22-10
  • Reagan ‘GE Theater’ tapes restored, go to library: All 208 episodes of television’s “General Electric Theater,” hosted by then-actor Ronald Reagan, were delivered to former first lady Nancy Reagan on Wednesday as part of the two-year celebration of the late president’s 100th birthday. The 1954-1962 “General Electric Theater” tapes, most believed to be damaged or lost, were recently uncovered in the General Electric/NBC Universal archives. They were restored to broadcast quality for use in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Reagan traveled the nation as GE’s goodwill ambassador to its plants during the 1950s. “The opportunity to represent GE back in the 1950s, and the encouragement he received from the employees he met along the way, really launched Ronnie’s career in public service,” Mrs. Reagan said in a statement released Wednesday. “I know he would be honored by this tribute.”… – AP, 3-17-10 Reagan Centenniel Site
  • Fox News Poll: 68% Say Vote Out All Incumbents: Fox News poll shows 68 percent of voters would oust all incumbents, while 20 percent would keep all lawmakers in office. AP, 3-19-10
  • NBC News poll: Americans hate the Congress: In a poll jointly released today by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, the American public overwhelmingly agrees: The nation is on the wrong track, the economy has negatively affected the country and Congress is broken – just 17% of Americans approve of Congress’ job, according to the poll…. 48% of respondents approve of Obama’s job as president, and 47% disapprove 50% of respondents would vote to replace every single member of Congress, if given the opportunity Nearly 3 in 4 still agree with this even if it means Democrats keep the majority Nearly 3 in 4 agree with this even if it means Republicans take majority…. – Monsters and Critics, 3-17-10


President Obama met with House Democrats in Washington Saturday, including Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

President Obama met with House Democrats in Washington Saturday, including Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

  • On final day, Obama works vote outside public view: Capping a long day and a consuming political journey, President Barack Obama celebrated the passage of health care legislation on Sunday with hugs, high fives and an emboldened attitude. Said the president to the nation, “Tonight, we answered the call of history.” At nearly midnight in Washington, with a big swath of country asleep or headed that way, Obama strode into the ornate East Room with Vice President Joe Biden backing him. There was no hour too late for the president to embrace this moment.
    “I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality,” Obama said as the top members of his own health care team stood beaming nearby. “I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote.”… – AP, 3-22-10
  • House Passes Historic Health Care Reform Legislation: The House of Representatives on Sunday passed a sweeping $940 billion health care bill in a historic vote that will dramatically change the U.S. health care system and expand health insurance coverage to 32 million more Americans over the next decade. “Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party … it’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense,” President Obama said in a statement after the vote. He added: “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. It will not fix everything that’s wrong with our system, but it will move us in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”…. – PBS Newshour, 3-22-10
  • House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama: House Democrats approved a far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s health system on Sunday, voting over unanimous Republican opposition to provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans after an epic political battle that could define the differences between the parties for years. Reporters gathered around Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, at the Capitol on Sunday. Ms. Pelosi called the health care bill “liberating legislation.”
    With the 219-to-212 vote, the House gave final approval to legislation passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve. Thirty-four Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill. The vote sent the measure to President Obama, whose yearlong push for the legislation has been the centerpiece of his agenda and a test of his political power. After approving the bill, the House adopted a package of changes to it by a vote of 220 to 211. That package — agreed to in negotiations among House and Senate Democrats and the White House — now goes to the Senate for action as soon as this week. It would be the final step in a bitter legislative fight that has highlighted the nation’s deep partisan and ideological divisions…. – NYT, 3-22-10
  • With the vote, a new stature for Obama: President Obama scored a stunning political and legislative victory on health care last night that not only will earn him a place in history books, but promises to establish him as a stronger leader of the Democratic party after a tumultuous first year…. Boston Globe, 3-22-10
  • Obama achieves health law success that eluded past: Rarely does the government, that big, clumsy, poorly regarded oaf, pull off anything short of war that touches all lives with one act, one stroke of a president’s pen. Such a moment has come. After a year of riotous argument, decades of failure and a century of spoiled hopes, the United States is reaching for a system of medical care that extends coverage nearly to all citizens. The change that’s coming will reshape a sixth of the economy and shatter the status quo. To the ardent liberal, President Barack Obama’s health care plan, passed by the House on Sunday night, is a shadow of what should have been, sapped by dispiriting downsizing and trade-offs. To the loud foe on the right, it is a dreadful expansion of the nanny state…. – AP, 3-22-10
  • Clinton pokes fun at Dems, GOP and himself: Former President Bill Clinton poked fun at Republicans, Democrats, his own health and his audience of reporters Saturday night, telling the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner he was there because “I really didn’t have anything much better to do tonight.” Clinton, who stood in for President Barack Obama, said Democrats are going to pass health care. “It may not happen in my lifetime, or Dick Cheney’s, but hopefully by Easter,” he said referring to his and the former to vice president’s heart ailments…. – WaPo, 3-21-10
  • U.S.-Israel rift adds tension to AIPAC meeting: After more than a week of tense relations between the United States and Israel, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech on Monday will be closely watched to see if the Obama administration’s get-tough approach continues or whether Clinton will emphasize common ground. Last week, the administration used strong diplomatic rhetoric to express indignation over Israel’s announcement that it will build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, a declaration that came during a visit by Vice President Biden…. – USA Today, 3-21-10
  • Proposed Changes in the Final Health Care Bill: To avoid the threat of a filibuster by Senate Republicans, Democratic leaders are planning to pass health care overhaul in a three-step process. The House completed the first two parts on Sunday by passing both the health bill approved in December by the Senate and a separate package of changes in a budget reconciliation measure — which can be adopted in the Senate by a simple majority. A look at key provisions of the Senate bill and the changes proposed in the reconciliation bill passed by the House Sunday…. – NYT, 3-22-10
  • Stage is set for historic healthcare vote: House Democrats scrap plans to use a controversial move and are expected to pass the biggest change since Medicare…. – LAT, 3-21-10
  • Democrats, Hunting Final Health Votes, Predict Slim Margin: With the stage set for a historic showdown over landmark health legislation in the House on Sunday afternoon, the White House and Democratic Congressional leaders winnowed their hunt for votes to a slim list of lawmakers, including several opponents of abortion who were demanding assurance that no federal money would be used to pay for insurance coverage of the procedure. Democrats late Saturday night said the 216 votes needed to pass the bill were nearly within their reach, but acknowledged that the margin of victory would likely be razor thin even under their most optimistic scenario. Republicans said they still held out hope of derailing the legislation…. – NYT, 3-21-10
  • Budget estimate key to health bill passage: Many people find it hard to understand how the health care legislation heading for a decisive vote Sunday can cost $940 billion over 10 years and cut the horrendous federal budget deficit at the same time. A turning point for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is leading the Democrats’ efforts to pass the legislation, came Thursday when the Congressional Budget Office said the measure would reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the first decade, and as much as $1.3 trillion the decade after that…. – SF Chronicle, 3-19-10
  • Latinos increasingly critical of Obama’s record on immigration: As tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters prepare to demonstrate in Washington on Sunday in favor of an immigration overhaul, the Obama administration is finding its relationship with this largely Latino community complicated by its mixed and misunderstood record on immigration enforcement. Compared with the Bush administration, Obama officials have substantially cut back on job-site roundups of illegal workers in favor of less controversial measures, such as auditing employers’ books and expanding programs that target unauthorized immigrants convicted of crimes…. – WaPo, 3-19-10
  • Health Showdown Is Set Bill Gets Boost From New Cost Estimate; Obama Delays Trip for Weekend Vote: Democrats made a final sprint toward a weekend vote on their health-care bill, pressuring wavering lawmakers as the Congressional Budget Office put the cost of the legislation at what party leaders see as a politically palatable $940 billion over the next decade…. – WSJ, 3-19-10
  • SC gov agrees to pay ethics fine, gets divorced: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has closed two chapters of his life, agreeing to pay $74,000 in fines to resolve ethics charges brought against him after last summer’s revelation of an extramarital affair, and receiving word that a judge had formally ended his 20-year marriage to his wife, Jenny…. – WaPo, 3-19-10
  • Bill Proposes Increased Aid to the Needy for College: The federal government would provide $36 billion in new financing for Pell grants to needy students over the next 10 years under legislation announced Thursday by Congressional Democrats. The maximum annual Pell grant would rise to $5,975 by 2017, from $5,350 this year. The new Pell initiative includes $13.5 billion to cover a shortfall caused by the sharp increase in the number of Americans enrolling in college during the recession…. – NYT, 3-18-10
  • 2 Senators Offer Immigration Overhaul: Two senators, a Democrat and a Republican, unveiled the outlines on Thursday of a proposal to overhaul the immigration system, which would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law before they could gain legal status and require all workers in the United States to carry a biometric identity card to prove that they are eligible to work. In carefully choreographed moves, the senators, Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, described their proposal in an editorial posted at midafternoon on the Web site of The Washington Post…. – NYT, 3-18-10
  • Holy War Erupts Among Catholics Over Abortion Language in Health Care Bill: The abortion language in President Obama’s health care reform bill has ignited a holy war among Catholics, sharply dividing them on whether the legislation would subsidize the termination of pregnancies…. – Fox News, 3-18-10
  • Health bill picking up key votes Healthcare bill gains momentum: President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confer after a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol President Obama and Democratic leaders gathered momentum for their sweeping healthcare overhaul Wednesday, picking up support from Democratic factions where defections were most feared: liberals, abortion opponents and backbenchers. Working into the night to put the finishing touches on the legislation, Democratic leaders said they continued to expect the balloting to be a cliffhanger…. – LAT, 3-18-10
  • Nuns in U.S. back healthcare bill despite Catholic bishops’ opposition: Their letter to Congress urging passage reflects differing views on whether it would lead to federally funded abortions…. – LAT, 3-18-10
  • Obama appears on Fox News, long White House target: After weeks of the White House belittling Fox News, President Barack Obama has appeared on the cable network to sell his embattled health care overhaul. During an interview Wednesday punctuated with interruptions and chiding, Obama defended his health care plan and the process by which it is heading toward becoming law. In the interview with Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier, Obama several times emphasized the upside of the proposals and dodged questions about how Congress might pass it…. – AP, 3-17-10
  • Obama speaks in district of Kucinich, old campaign foe and current critic: The liberal Ohioan, a former mayor of Cleveland, has been a persistent critic of Obama’s health care plan, saying it doesn’t go far enough. He voted against an Obama-backed health care bill in November. – USA Today, 3-27-10
  • Health bill gains ground but release delayed: President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation won precious support from a longtime liberal holdout in the House on Wednesday and from a retired Catholic bishop and nuns representing dozens of religious orders — gaining fresh traction ahead of a climactic weekend vote. “That’s a good sign,” said Obama, two weeks after taking personal command of a campaign to enact legislation in what has become a virtual vote of confidence on his still-young presidency. But Democrats delayed the planned release of formal legislation at least until Thursday as they sought to make sure it would reduce federal deficits annually over the next decade…. – AP, 3-17-10
  • US wants Osama bin Laden alive, US commander in Afghanistan says: General Stanley McChrystal said Wednesday that given the opportunity, the US would like to capture Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden alive, appearing to contradict comments made Tuesday by Attorney General Eric Holder…. – CS Monitor, 3-17-10
  • Democrats Consider New Moves for Health Bill: As lawmakers clashed fiercely over major health care legislation on the House floor, Democrats struggled Tuesday to defend procedural shortcuts they might use to win approval for their proposals in the next few days. House Democrats are so skittish about the piece of legislation that is now the vehicle for overhauling the health care system — the bill passed by the Senate in December — that they are considering a maneuver that would allow them to pass it without explicitly voting for it. Under that approach, House Democrats would approve a package of changes to the Senate bill in a budget reconciliation bill. The Senate bill would be “deemed passed” if and when the House adopts rules for debate on the reconciliation bill — or perhaps when the House passes that reconciliation bill…. – NYT, 3-17-10
  • Health bill will pass, Sebelius says: Consumers will see immediate benefits through increased transparency from insurers under health care reform that the House is hoping to pass this weekend, President Barack Obama’s top health official said Tuesday. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said having health plans report their premiums to the government would help slow their rise because insurance companies will have to justify the rate increases. Chicago Tribune, 3-17-10
  • Obama’s health-care reform speech in Ohio convinces a few skeptics: Retirees who voted Republican in the last presidential election, Carol and Paul Gerhardstein were unhappy about Democratic plans to overhaul the nation’s health-care system. But they showed up at a rally this week to hear President Obama defend his proposals, and a funny thing happened. “He convinced me that we are doing the right thing. He’s going to look out for us,” Carol Gerhardstein said after Obama’s motorcade departed in a cold drizzle Monday. “I gained a little more trust in him.”…. – 3-16-10
  • Obama to Take Questions From Fox News: President Obama will give a rare interview on Wednesday to Fox News, the cable network that a top administration official once accused of being a political arm of the Republican Party. The interview, with Bret Baier, an anchor and a former chief White House correspondent for Fox, will be broadcast at 6 p.m., at the height of a week in which Democrats, including Mr. Obama, are pressing allies and lawmakers to push ahead to get the health care bill passed in the House despite solid Republican opposition and the lessening of public support for the legislation…. – 3-16-10
  • Pelosi: Dems will have votes to OK health care: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by at least a dozen restless babies at a news conference Monday, declared that when she brings health care reform to the House floor, likely by the end of this week, “we will have the votes.” If she is correct – and no one is more skilled at the inside legislative game than the San Francisco Democrat – Pelosi will have delivered a monumental victory for President Obama and an achievement that Democrats have promised for decades. Driven by what she has described as a moral and political imperative, Pelosi said last summer that health care reform is what Democrats “were born to do.”… – SF Chronicle, 3-15-10
  • House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it: After laying the groundwork for a decisive vote this week on the Senate’s health-care bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Monday that she might attempt to pass the measure without having members vote on it. Instead, Pelosi (D-Calif.) would rely on a procedural sleight of hand: The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers “deem” the health-care bill to be passed…. – WaPo, 3-16-10
  • Amid Democratic Impatience, Senators Move on a Jobs Bill: The Senate cleared the way on Monday for final Congressional approval of a Democratic plan to spur job creation as Democrats grew impatient with delays in enacting what they hope is the first in a series of economic measures. By a bipartisan vote of 61 to 30, the Senate eliminated the final procedural obstacle to approval later this week of a bill that would exempt employers from payroll taxes through the end of the year on newly hired employees who have been out of work for at least 60 days…. – NYT, 3-15-10
  • ObamaCare plays on Americans’ fears: As a candidate for president, Sen. Barack Obama rejected “the politics of fear.” Well, he won. So now he’s playing the fear card to the hilt. Monday President Obama went to Strongsville, Ohio, to warn that unless his ObamaCare passes, middle Americans should be very afraid of the day when they (Fear No. 1) lose their job or income, then (Fear No. 2) fall seriously ill, and then (Fear No. 3) receive the health care they need, but lose valued assets…. – SF Chronicle, 3-15-10 <>
  • Mistress of Edwards Ends Silence on Affair: In an interview with GQ magazine, Rielle Hunter talks publicly for the first time about her relationship with former Senator John Edwards, which began during his presidential campaign. NYT, 3-15-10 CQ Interview
  • Israel rejects U.S. calls to halt East Jerusalem plan: Prime Minister Netanyahu says construction will go ahead, despite a diplomatic flap…. – LAT, 3-16-10
  • US Israel criticism ignites firestorm in Congress: The Obama administration’s fierce denunciation of Israel last week has ignited a firestorm in Congress and among powerful pro-Israel interest groups who say the criticism of America’s top Mideast ally was misplaced. Since the controversy erupted, a bipartisan parade of influential lawmakers and interest groups has taken aim at the administration’s decision to publicly condemn Israel for its announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting on Tuesday and then openly vent bitter frustration on Friday…. – AP, 3-15-10
  • U.S.-Israel crisis: This time, it’s serious: Last summer, when the relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations was getting off to what appeared to be a rocky start, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was at pains — twice — to deny that he had been “summoned” to the State Department for a dressing down. One such “meeting” was actually a friendly phone call, he said, and the other was a routine getting-to-know-you meeting. The distinction was key, he told journalists: When the State Department actually “summons” an envoy, “That’s serious.”… – JTA, 3-15-10 The U.S.-Israeli flap: discuss

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • McCain, Palin to campaign together in Arizona: John McCain and Sarah Palin are scheduled to campaign together in Arizona next week for the first time since they conceded the presidential election in Phoenix in 2008. Palin and McCain will be at a rally and picnic in Tucson on March 26, followed the next day by a rally in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa…. – AP, 3-15-10
  • Democrat Enters N.Y. Governor Race as Republican: Steve Levy, a longtime Democrat, in Manhattan on Friday after announcing his candidacy for governor as a Republican: Fresh off an announcement that jolted the New York political world, Steve Levy, the Long Island Democrat who abandoned his party to run for governor as a Republican, is working to secure endorsements as he tries to gain an edge in the contest for the nomination. His candidacy barely a day old, Mr. Levy, the Suffolk County executive, has already siphoned away the support of several influential county leaders from former Representative Rick A. Lazio, who until this week appeared to be the Republican front-runner…. – NYT, 3-19-10


Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

President Obama, with the vice president at the White House, hailed the passage of the health bill.

  • This is What Change Looks Like: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and America’s small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.
    Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.
    Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard — it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up — let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you….
    Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party — it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense…. – WH, 3-22-10
  • “Make True on that Promise”: Remarks by the President to the House Democratic Congress Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium, Washington, D.C.: In his remarks to the House Democratic Caucus yesterday, President Obama put the upcoming health insurance reform effort into a larger context with some powerful thoughts about how he got invovled in politics and what moments like now mean for the country. …
    And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.
    Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow. – WH, 3-21-10 WH, 3-21-10
  • Fiery Boehner: ‘Hell no you can’t!’: In his final words from the floor of the House before a vote on health care reform legislation, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) led a fiery round of rhetorical questions….
    “Can you say it was done openly with transparency and accountability, without backdroom deals and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?,” Rep. Boehner asked. “Hell no you can’t!”
    “Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s assessment?” he asked. “Hell no you haven’t.”
    The acting speaker then banged his gavel, saying calmly, “Both sides would do well to remember the dignity of the House.”
    “By our actions today, we disgrace their values. We break our ties to history in this chamber,” Rep. Boehner said…. – NECN, 3-21-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Urges Action on Financial Reform Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address March 20, 2010: …Now, I have long been a vigorous defender of free markets. And I believe we need a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, offer a new service. But what we have seen over the past two years is that without reasonable and clear rules to check abuse and protect families, markets don’t function freely. In fact, it was just the opposite. In the absence of such rules, our financial markets spun out of control, credit markets froze, and our economy nearly plummeted into a second Great Depression.
    That’s why financial reform is so necessary. And after months of bipartisan work, Senator Chris Dodd and his committee have offered a strong foundation for reform, in line with the proposal I previously laid out, and in line with the reform bill passed by the House.
    It would provide greater scrutiny of large financial firms to prevent any one company from threatening the entire financial system – and it would update the rules so that complicated financial products like derivatives are no longer bought and sold without oversight. It would prevent banks from engaging in risky dealings through their own hedge funds – while finally giving shareholders a say on executive salaries and bonuses. And through new tools to break up failing financial firms, it would help ensure that taxpayers are never again forced to bail out a big bank because it is “too big to fail.”… – WH, 3-20-10
  • Obama appeals to Iranian people in Internet video: In a fresh appeal directly to the Iranian people, President Barack Obama says in an online video that the United States wants more educational and cultural exchanges for their students and better access to the Internet to give them a more hopeful future.
    “The United States believes in the dignity of every human being and an international order that bends the arc of history in the direction of justice — a future where Iranians can exercise their rights, to participate fully in the global economy and enrich the world through educational and cultural exchanges beyond Iran’s borders,” Obama said in the video, which had Farsi subtitles.
    Even though the United States and Iran continue to have differences, Obama said, “we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people — for instance, by increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities and through our efforts to ensure that Iranians can have access to the software and Internet technology that will enable them to communicate with each other and with the world without fear of censorship.”…. – USA Today, 3-20-10


Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, carries the gavel that was used when Medicare was passed while walking with other congressional Democrats to the Capitol before the health care vote Sunday.

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, carries the gavel that was used when Medicare was passed while walking with other congressional Democrats to the Capitol before the health care vote Sunday.

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Pelosi emerges as powerhouse in D.C.: The passage of health care will certainly rank as one of the major political achievements of recent decades. Legislation that will eventually extend health care coverage to more than 30 million more Americans, greatly expand the number of options that citizens have when purchasing health care, bring healthy citizens into the pool of the insured and thus lower costs and create important regulations on health care companies will be remembered as one of the biggest domestic policy changes since the Great Society of the 1960s.
    While most attention will focus on President Obama for pulling off a Herculean task that eluded many of our great presidents, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington. She has pursued a clear ideological agenda but through pragmatic political tactics. Like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, she stands for something, yet knows how to round up votes…. – CNN, 3-21-10
  • DAVID E. SANGER: News Analysis A Major Victory, but at What Cost?: The House’s passage of health care legislation late Sunday night assures that whatever the ultimate cost, President Obama will go down in history as one of the handful of presidents who found a way to reshape the nation’s social welfare system. After the bitterest of debates, Mr. Obama proved that he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core. Skeptics had begun to wonder. But he showed that when he was finally committed to throwing all his political capital onto the table, he could win, if by the narrowest of margins. Whether it was a historic achievement or political suicide for his party — perhaps both — he succeeded where President Bill Clinton failed in trying to remake American health care. President George W. Bush also failed to enact a landmark change in a domestic program, his second-term effort to create private accounts in the Social Security system…. – NYT, 3-22-10
  • With the vote, a new stature for Obama: “Some were saying the bloom was really off the rose,” said Roger Wilkins, a historian and author who served as an assistant attorney general in the Johnson administration. “There’s a ‘Bambi’ quality to him. When you look at him, there’s this lithe young man who likes to play backyard basketball. “I think that everybody who thought that Bambi had moved into the White House knows that’s not true today.” Wilkins continued. “He is one tough fellow, and he has proved himself to be pretty good at politics as well.” – Boston Globe, 3-22-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama risks being called ‘The Undecider’: President Obama has had trouble sticking with his decisions. In several high-profile cases during his first year in the White House, there has been a pattern where the president takes a position on an important matter, feels the political heat for what he has said, and then backs off.
    If President George W. Bush was the self-proclaimed “The Decider” who insisted on staying the course regardless of how many problems emerged with a policy, President Obama is starting to run the risk of becoming known as “The Undecider” who is unable to stand firm after announcing a position. In the case of President Bush, what might have been a source of political strength turned into a political weakness….
    With President Obama, it seems that the danger is just the opposite. On national security, there have been several instances when the president has backed off critical decisions….
    President Obama can’t afford to become “The Undecider.” If he wants to re-energize his presidency and improve his legislative scorecard, opponents need to know that when the White House proposes something it will fight tooth and nail for it. Supporters need to know that when they stand behind the president, he will not walk away. – CNN, 3-18-10


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