President Obama Signs Historic Health Care Reform Bill
Posted by Media Outrage on March 23, 2010
Today marks the day that President Barack Obama signed the historic health care reform bill into law.
When Bill Clinton pledged to deliver universal health care 17 years ago, he firmly instructed both chambers of Congress in a prime-time special address that “you will pass and I will sign legislation to guarantee this security” — i.e., permanent, portable health coverage — “to every citizen of this country.”
That moment never arrived for Clinton, of course. But today in a spirited ceremony with a few unscripted moments, Barack Obama signed into law the sweeping bill to overhaul American health care that the House approved in a close vote Sunday night. The signing ceremony, held at 11:15 a.m. ET marked the end of a decades-long battle over creating a system of universal coverage —thereby extending health insurance to the more than 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured. The ceremony established the biggest new social program since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare act into law in 1965 — and arguably since the Social Security Act arrived on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s desk in 1935.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on hand for the occasion, since the Sunday vote to pass the bill will stand as the cornerstone of her legacy as speaker. Also in attendance for the ceremony in the East Room of the White House were a number of ordinary Americans, whose struggles with the existing health care system affected President Obama’s resolve to get the measure through Congress.
In his opening remarks, Vice President Joe Biden noted that the Roman poet Virgil wrote that “health is wealth” — and that the signed law would make “Ameircans a lot more wealthy.”
When President Obama observed that the members of Congress had a rough time in the spotlight as the measure met with many setbacks along the way, an unidentified lawmaker in attendance shouted “Yes we did!” Others in the enthusiastic crowd started up the chant of “Fired up and ready to go!” echoing the shouts at Obama rallies during the 2008 Democratic primary season.
A follow-up ceremony at the Interior Department was to include a much larger group of participants and onlookers.
The ceremony, while historic, won’t mark the final enactment of the health care package. That will probably happen sometime next week, after the Senate approves the companion bill of proposed House “fixes” to the underlying legislation being signed into law today. Since the Senate only needs a 51-vote majority, the House’s “reconciled” bill is widely expected to win easy passage in the chamber.
In the meantime, President Obama will launch a speaking tour to bolster public support for the legislation, which has been trending negative in recent polling. He launches the tour with an event Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa. Democratic leaders will be making such public appeals a priority in the months ahead, as they hope to stress the most popular features of the bill — such as banning denial of insurance based on a patient’s pre-existing conditions, and closing the “doughnut hole” that denies some seniors eligibility for the Medicare prescription drug benefit — as bankable achievements to save embattled Democratic seats in Congress.