OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:
IN FOCUS: STATS
- Poll show health care plan gains favor President Obama reaches for a pen to sign the health care bill Tuesday. A poll finds increased support for the measure: By 49%-40%, those polled say it was “a good thing” rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms — as “enthusiastic” or “pleased” — while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as “disappointed” or “angry.” The largest single group, 48%, calls the legislation “a good first step” that needs to be followed by more action. And 4% say the bill itself makes the most important changes needed in the nation’s health care system.
“After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise,” Obama declared in a celebration at the Interior Department auditorium with members of Congress, leaders of advocacy groups and citizens whose personal stories were cited during the debate. “It is the law of the land.”… – USA Today, 3-23-10
- 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
- It’s the law of the land: Health overhaul signed: Claiming a historic triumph that could define his presidency, a jubilant Barack Obama signed a massive, nearly $1 trillion health care overhaul on Tuesday that will for the first time cement insurance coverage as the right of every U.S. citizen and begin to reshape the way virtually all Americans receive and pay for treatment. After more than a year of hyperpartisan struggle — and numerous near-death moments for the measure — Obama declared “a new season in America” as he sealed a victory denied to a line of presidents stretching back more than half a century. Democratic lawmakers cheered him on, giving the White House signing ceremony a rally-like atmosphere as they shouted and snapped photos with pocket cameras or cell phones…. – AP, 3-23-10
- Obama Signs Health Care Overhaul Bill, With a Flourish: With the strokes of 20 pens, President Obama signed his landmark health care overhaul — the most expansive social legislation enacted in decades — into law on Tuesday, saying it enshrines “the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”
Republican lawmakers plan to put up roadblocks to the health reconciliation bill. At a news conference on Tuesday, from left, were Senators Jon Kyl, Judd Gregg and Mitch McConnell. Mr. Obama signed the measure, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, during a festive and at times raucous ceremony in the East Room of the White House. He spoke to an audience of nearly 300, including more than 200 Democratic lawmakers who rode a yearlong legislative roller coaster that ended with House passage of the bill Sunday night. They interrupted him repeatedly with cheers, applause and standing ovations.
“The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “Today we are affirming that essential truth, a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself, that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations.”… – NYT, 3-24-10
- Obama signs health care reform into law: President Obama signed legislation into law Tuesday that will overhaul the nation’s health system and, jubilant Democrats hope, overhaul their own political fortunes and become not their Waterloo, but the GOP’s. For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enactment marks the pinnacle of her career, delivering a landmark law that has eluded Democrats for decades without a single Republican vote. Weeks after insisting that the House could not pass the legislation, the San Francisco Democrat led her chamber to do just that, showing a mastery of legislative maneuvering unmatched by any of her predecessors from either party in recent memory.
On Tuesday, Obama singled out Pelosi as “one of the best speakers the House of Representatives has ever had,” and Republicans turned to her as the chief target of their ire. So widespread were her kudos that she rivaled the president as the Washington leader most responsible for bringing Democrats’ hard-fought victory to fruition…. – SF Chronicle, 3-23-10
- Biden to Obama: “A big [expletive] deal”: After introducing Obama at Tuesday’s health-care bill signing ceremony, Vice President Biden turned to the president and said, “This is a big [expletive] deal.”… – WaPo, 3-23-10
- Ted Kennedy is celebrated for his longtime support of health-care reform: While President Obama gathered with lawmakers for a bill-signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday afternoon, dozens of others came to commemorate health-care legislation here, on a quiet hillside in Section 45 of Arlington National Cemetery. The grave site of Edward M. Kennedy consists of only a white cross and a flat marble footstone, but it has attracted hundreds of visitors during the past several days. First came Vicki Kennedy, the widowed wife, staying for several hours Sunday while Congress prepared for its decisive vote. Next was Patrick Kennedy, the son, who left behind a note written on his congressional stationery Monday morning. Then, on Tuesday, health-care advocates and student groups were led to the grave by tour guides, one of whom pointed to the white cross and recalled, “The Great Ted Kennedy, the man who championed health care.”… – WaPo, 3-24-10
- Health bill included big Republican idea: individual mandate: The lawsuit against the health care overhaul filed Tuesday by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is focused on a provision that has long been advocated by conservatives, big business and the insurance industry. The lawsuit by McCollum, a candidate for governor, and 12 other attorneys general, focuses on the provision that virtually all Americans will need to have health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. The lawsuit calls this an “unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals.” It states the Constitution doesn’t authorize such a mandate, the proposed tax penalty is unlawful and is an “unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states.”… – Miami Herald, 3-24-10
- Israel Absorbs Twin Rebukes From Top Allies: Israel found itself at odds with its two most stalwart allies on Tuesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu culminated a tense visit to Washington with a face-to-face session with President Obama that apparently failed to resolve the impasse between the two over a comprehensive Middle East peace plan…. – NYT, 3-24-10
- Economic Scene In Health Care Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality: For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago… – NYT, 3-24-10
- Gap in health care law’s protection for children: The Obama administration is scrambling to fix a potential problem with a much-touted benefit of its new health care law, a gap in coverage improvements for children in poor health, officials said Tuesday…. – AP, 3-24-10
- Obama to sign health care reform into law, then promote it on the road: President Obama will sign sweeping health care reform legislation into law at the White House on Tuesday, according to two Democratic officials familiar with the planning….
Passage of the bill was a huge boost for Obama, who made health care reform a domestic priority. Aides said Monday that Obama exchanged handshakes, hugs and “high-fives” with staffers when the outcome of the House vote became apparent. “I haven’t seen the president so happy about anything other than his family since I’ve known him,” said senior adviser David Axelrod, adding that Obama’s jubilation Sunday night exceeded his election victory in November 2004. “He was excited that night, but not like last night.”… – CNN, 3-23-10
- A look at the health care overhaul bill: Congress approved a major overhaul of the nation’s health care system for President Barack Obama’s signature. Here are some of the features of the legislation…. – AP, 3-23-10
- Republicans’ new health care reform bill rallying cry: Repeal it: Republicans couldn’t stop Democrats from passing the health care reform bill Sunday. Now, they vow to make the bill – and big government spending – the core issue of the 2010 elections…. – CS Monitor, 3-22-10
- 10 states line up to sue over health bill, Florida AG says: Virginia, 10 other states plan to file suit challenging health care reform bill… Florida AG Bill McCollum: “This is a tax … on just living, and that’s unconstitutional”… McCollum says bill would force states to spend money, which violates 10th Amendment
(CNN) — Ten states plan to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care reform bill, Florida’s attorney general announced Monday. Bill McCollum, the Republican attorney general under fellow Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, told a news conference that the lawsuit would be filed once President Obama signs the health care bill into law. He said he’ll be joined by his counterparts in Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington… McCollum said the lawsuit would challenge the bill’s provision requiring people to purchase health insurance, along with provisions that will force state government to spend more on health care services…. – CNN, 3-22-10
- Healthcare victory could bolster Pelosi: Keeping her majority come November will be another test for the House speaker…. – LAT, 3-23-10
- On health care, Pelosi kept Democrats thinking big: The landmark health care bill about to be signed into law is as large as it is due in no small part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stewardship. When Democrats in Congress and the White House were despondent and inclined to retreat on health care just two months ago, Pelosi stood firm against despair and downsizing. As a result, she could emerge from the yearlong struggle among the most powerful speakers in history…. “It’s safe to say that she’s going to change some of the ways that we look at effective speakers, and maybe create a new definition of how to get things done under incredibly difficult circumstances,” said Ray Smock, who was House historian for a dozen years under former speakers Tip O’Neill, Jim Wright and Tom Foley. – AP, 3-22-10
- Debra J. Saunders: ObamaCare means: Don’t look behind the curtain: You’ve really got to hand it to President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Saddled with a majority of both houses and a hold on the White House, they somehow managed to pass the Senate health care bill in the House. It’s practically a miracle. And because Washington loves a victory, Pelosi is now seen as stronger, not as a Democrat who unconscionably lost 34 Dems and every Republican… – SF Chronicle, 3-22-10
- Before health vote, a weekend of ugly discourse: Remember how shocking it was six months ago when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” to the president? Suddenly, that outburst seems positively genteel. From the “N-word” and anti-gay slurs being leveled at congressmen by protesters right outside the Capitol, to a shout of “baby killer!” within the chamber itself, to veiled and not-so-veiled threats online, the weekend saw an explosion of stunningly ugly discourse. What is going on? Is our political culture sinking ever lower? Actually, say political historians, not necessarily, though it surely may seem so. In reality, they say, such a descent into incivility happens periodically at times of significant political change…. – AP, 3-22-10
- 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
Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama signed major health care legislation into law on Tuesd
- Remarks by the President and Vice President at Signing of the Health Insurance Reform Bill East Room: Our presence here today is remarkable and improbable. With all the punditry, all of the lobbying, all of the game- playing that passes for governing in Washington, it’s been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing; to wonder if there are limits to what we, as a people, can still achieve. It’s easy to succumb to the sense of cynicism about what’s possible in this country.
But today, we are affirming that essential truth -– a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself –- that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations. (Applause.) We are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust. We don’t fall prey to fear. We are not a nation that does what’s easy. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we got here.
We are a nation that faces its challenges and accepts its responsibilities. We are a nation that does what is hard. What is necessary. What is right. Here, in this country, we shape our own destiny. That is what we do. That is who we are. That is what makes us the United States of America.
And we have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care. (Applause.) And it is an extraordinary achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the advocates all across the country…. – WH, 3-23-10 Video
- 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
HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS
- Bruce Schulman: Before health vote, a weekend of ugly discourse: “I was on my way to work this morning and I saw an amazing bumper sticker,” says Bruce Schulman, a historian at Boston University. It directed a vulgar curse word at Obama. “It’s hard for me to believe that we would have seen that a few decades ago,” says Schulman. “Even with Richard Nixon, who was so hated by many.” Still, Schulman says, it’s clear that with the Internet, social media and other platforms, many with extreme views now merely have a megaphone they didn’t have years ago…. “The rawest, most unfiltered comments now become part of the political discourse,” Schulman says. – AP, 3-22-10
- How Will History View the Health Reform Debate?: After months of debate, deals and delays, a health reform bill is now headed to the president’s desk. Three historians assess the significance of the moment, in the context of nearly 100 years of U.S. health care legislation…. – PBS Newshour, 3-22-10
- Robert Dallek, Presidential Historian, Stanford University: How Will History View the Health Reform Debate?: …In terms of the future, I would say the argument will not disappear. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this debate about national health insurance. If it works well, the Democrats will have a very significant talking point for the future. If it falls short, if it’s somehow seen as a failure, the Republicans are going to have a powerful talking point against the Democrats…. – PBS Newshour, 3-22-10
- Ellen Fitzpatrick, Professor of History, University of New HampshireHow Will History View the Health Reform Debate?: …The battle over this legislation — waged with skills and determination by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reinforced by pressure from the grassroots who looked with dismay upon the prospect of another defeat at the hands of political inertia and incompetence — marks a milestone in the young Obama presidency. Having staked so much on a promise of change, Obama redeems that pledge in ways that — whatever the struggles ahead — casts in stark relief the recalcitrance of his opponents. – PBS Newshour, 3-22-10
- Richard Norton Smith, Scholar in Residence, George Mason University, How Will History View the Health Reform Debate?: To state the obvious, it is an enormous personal victory for Barack Obama — not only the magnitude and scope of what is being achieved but how it’s been done, how it has been brought back from the grave. That is the stuff of instant legend as well as lasting history. In some ways, it’s almost easier to predict what historians a generation from now will say than what voters will say six or seven months from now. What we can’t know, what no poll can measure, is what aura will accrue to this president and his party as a result of pulling this rabbit out of a hat…. – PBS Newshour, 3-22-10
- Jordan Michael Smith: What Obama Could Learn from a New Book on FDR: Health care reform is a major victory for the United States. But, paradoxically, its very passage illustrates the depths of government dysfunction. Reform took 13 months, billions of dollars in advertising and lobbying, and Herculean patience and effort on the part of lawmakers, voters and grassroots supporters — and still the United States’ health care falls well short in terms of quality and breadth of coverage per capita than almost every industrialized country in the world. Even worse, the Supreme Court may strike down some of the new health plan’s provisions…. – Huffington Post, 3-22-10
- 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