It was to be his Wateroo, or so the Republicans said. After a year and a half of debate, name calling, lies, threats, punditry, shouts of fear, uncertainty and doubt, tonight the House of Representatives passed health care reform. President Obama has managed to do something no other administration in recent memory has been able to and he did it despite the efforts of the GOP to filibuster, block and obstruct at every turn. The President and the Congress has struck a blow to the status quo and moved the country forward to at least try and deal with the death grip of expanding health insurance costs in this country. Obama promised it, and Nancy Pelosi helped deliver it.
The implications for what happens next for Republicans are as deep as they are serious. Here are just some of the reactions making the rounds:
“Make no mistake: the more virulent GOP opposition to the plans became – and, if you like, the more hysterical – the more Democrats had to pass it if only to save face. Sceptical Blue Dogs, Pro-Lifers and Leftists were all forced to club together for the greater good of the party. Left to their own devices they almost certainly couldn’t have agreed on a bill, any bill.”
“No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?”
“I don’t think anyone will hold up the bill that will pass as exemplary, but it does reflect elements of health care reform that Democrats campaigned on and won on in 2008. So I have a hard time seeing this as doing violence to the will of the people as it is typically expressed in our electoral system. Elections matter. This is how they matter.”
So what does all this mean for Obama and the Democrats? It’s difficult to tell yet, but I firmly believe that delivering health care reform will help cement a second term for the President. As the economy continues to recover, more people start to find work, and the reforms from tonight’s bill start to kick in, the GOP will find they were on the wrong side of history. 32 million more Americans will be able to have health coverage. Pre-existing conditions (including those associated with simply being a woman) will no longer bar people from coverage. Expensive treatments like chemotherapy will no longer have a benefit cap and small businesses will earn tax breaks and subsidies to help keep their workers covered.
The handwriting is on the wall and it isn’t hard to read. But no matter what happens in November, tonight’s vote was a signal that American’s hope for real change wasn’t misplaced. The sheer fact that this bill wasn’t killed dead and buried in a cornfield speaks volumes about the progressive movement in this country. This was a tough vote, and undoubtedly many Democrats will lose their seats in the fall because of it. It takes courage to stand up and do what’s right, even more so when the opposition is screaming at the top of their hysterical lungs. Tonight President Obama said “We did not fear our future, we shaped it.” No truer words were ever spoken.