mc_squared Posted March 22, 2010 Share Posted March 22, 2010 'This is what change looks like': Victory for Obama as historic healthcare reform bill is passed (but at what price?) By David Gardner Last updated at 10:25 AM on 22nd March 2010 Comments (69) Videos Add to My Stories Vote is compared to civil rights legislation of 50s and 60sReform leaves nation polarised as backlash begins Democrats set to pay price in November mid-term electionsFinal tally is 219 to 212 Barack Obama hailed the passing of his historic healthcare overhaul last night, declaring: 'This is what change looks like.' The jubilant president was preparing to sign his £600billion plan into law after the House of Representatives passed the bill in a cliffhanger vote - a victory that U.S. presidents have been trying to achieve for nearly 100 years. Many are already comparing the vote to just a rung below the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s. But with the nation polarised by the healthcare debate, many are wondering if Mr Obama has made a historic mistake. Victory: President Barack Obam walks to the White House podium to deliver his address with Vice President Joseph Biden The cost to his party and himself could be crippling, analysts have warned. America is heading into mid-term congressional elections in November - and many are now worried that the Democrats are set to pay a high price for healthcare. The damage to Mr Obama and his party is already considerable. The president staked his domestic agenda on healthcare last summer. His stand generated the grass-roots 'Tea Party' movement, sparked angry town hall meetings across the nation, and saw his poll numbers plunge to below 50 per cent in some places. The political stakes are enormous. But Mr Obama spoke only of victory last night. Speaking from the White House at midnight in Washington, he celebrated his triumph in ushering through major reforms 'after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying and a year of sustained effort and debate'. He added: 'It's a victory for the American people and it's a victory for common sense.' 'Do it for the American people': President Obama holds a letter from someone in need of health insurance as he addresses the House Democratic caucus Passed: An autographed copy of the healthcare bill after it was passed into law by Congress A huge cheer went up from House Democrats as the vote reached the 216 mark required to pass the reforms already adopted by the U.S. Senate. The final tally was 219 to 212. A short time later, Democrats also drove through a package of amendments by 220 votes to 211 that were agreed to make the bill more palatable for some rank-and-file members. After going back to the Senate for approval the 'fixes' will be combined into the final legislation. The rocky passage of the bill, coming after a thwarted mutiny by some Democrats, was seen in Washington last night as one of the most significant legislative triumphs in decades. 'Today's vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a healthcare system that works for insurance companies but not for ordinary people,' Mr Obama said. 'We proved that we are still a people capable of big things. 'We answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us,' he added. 'When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge, we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility, we embraced it. We did not fear our future, we shaped it.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid tribute to the 'extraordinary leadership and vision' of the president. 'Pride': House Speaker Nancy Pelosi laughs with other Democratic representatives after paying tribute to the 'extraordinary leadership' of Obama 'It is with great humility and great pride that tonight we will make history for this country,' she said minutes before the vote. 'This is an American proposal that honours the traditions of this country,' she added. It wasn't until the morning of the vote that Democrat whips in the House of Representatives finally nailed down the votes they needed in the 435-member chamber to prevent a defeat that would have rocked the Obama administration. UGLY SCENES AT CAPITOL America’s healthcare debate turned ugly last night when protesters screamed hate slurs at black and gay lawmakers outside the U.S. Capitol building. Opponents of President Obama’s health reforms shouted the n-word at Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who was nearly beaten to death during a march for equality in the 1960s. They also shouted insults at members of the Congressional Black Caucus. ‘They were shouting, sort of harassing,’ said Mr Lewis (pictured above beside Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House). ‘But it’s okay, I’ve faced this before. It reminded me of the 60s. It was a lot of downright hate and anger and people being downright mean.’ Congressman Andre Carson said some among the crowd chanted ‘the n-word, the n-word, fifteen times.’ Demonstrators also harangued Congressman Barney Frank, an openly gay lawmaker, calling him abusive names. ‘I’m disappointed with the unwillingness to be civil,' he said. 'I was surprised by the rancour. People out there today, on the whole, were really hateful. The leaders of this movement have a responsibility to speak out more.' The so-called ‘Tea Party’ protesters were part of a growing grass roots campaign formed by conservative hard-liners opposed to the Obama administration and, in particular, to the president’s healthcare overhaul. The president cancelled his planned trip to Australia and Indonesia to lead the arm-twisting and cajoling that carried on right up until the rare make-or-break Sunday congressional session. Eventually, a key group of Democrats who opposed the bill because they claimed it could open the way for state-funded abortions relented and agreed to vote in favour. Congressman Bart Stupak, the leader of the rebel faction, voted for the legislation after being promised that Mr Obama would issue an executive order affirming a ban on government cash being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. The reform is likely to be judged alongside the boldest acts of presidents and U.S. Congress in domestic affairs. While national healthcare has long been the goal of president stretching back decades, it has proved elusive in part because self-reliance and suspicion of government intervention remain strong across America. When Mr Obama signs the hefty new bill into law it will usher in sweeping changes to the £1.5trillion U.S. health system, including expanding coverage to as many as 32million Americans who are currently uninsured and barring insurance companies from denying coverage in cases where patients have a pre-existing condition. It will also require most Americans to have insurance, give subsidies to help some pay for coverage and create state-based exchanges where the uninsured can compare and shop for plans. While smiles replaced the tense frowns of House Democrats after corralling their majority votes, thousands of protesters chanted ‘kill the bill’ outside the Capitol, a clear sign of the considerable opposition to the plan. With all attempts at bipartisanship out of the window, Republicans contend the bill amounts to a government takeover of healthcare that will lead to higher deficits and taxes. And they warned Democrat lawmakers they will pay the price at the mid-term elections in November. Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the Washington Post yesterday: 'They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years' with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Bill Clinton's failed attempt to reform healthcare in 1994 'took a full decade for the Democratic Party to undo and reverse,' William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House, also told the Post. Opposition: A few protesters stay outside the Capitol late in the evening as they chant 'Kill the Bill' Attack: Like his party colleagues, House Republican Leader John Boehner does not want the healthcare bill to pass 'My colleagues shame us,' said Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. 'Freedom dies a little bit today. Unfortunately, some are celebrating.' TODAY'S POLL Do you support Barack Obama's plans for compulsory health insurance in the U.S.? Yes No VOTE POLL RESULTS Close All polls Click to view yesterday's poll results House Minority Republican Leader John Boehner said he had a 'sad and heavy heart.' 'We stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honour that this house was held in by our fellow citizens and we all know why is it so - we have failed to listen to America. We have failed ourselves and failed our country,' he added. But Mr Obama rallied Democrats on Saturday, telling them: ‘I know what pressure you are under. This is one of those moments. Enlarge 'This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, "Doggone it, this is exactly why I came to Congress". ‘Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for the Democratic Party, do it for the American people. They’re the ones looking for action right now,’ he added. The Democrats hold 253 seats in the House of Representatives, compared to 178 Republicans, and needed 216 votes to prevail. The reason there were two votes - one on a bill that has already passed through the Senate and another on a package of 'fixes' - was so that amendments could be included that appeased Democrats worried about some aspects of the narrower Senate version passed on Christmas Eve. While the rubber-stamped Senate bill went to the White House to become law, the amendments are being sent back to the Senate for approval. Senate Democrats say they are confident of the simple 51-majority in the 100-member chamber required to pass the amendments within days. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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