Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.
After more than a year of heated rhetoric, arm-twisting, cajoling and expending countless hours and energy of political capital, President Obama was overjoyed as his health care reform bill was passed by the House Sunday night.
On Tuesday morning in the East Room of the White House, Obama signed the bill into law, surrounded by his Democratic colleagues and a few invited guests.
"The bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see," he said, after being introduced by Vice President Joe Biden. "It will take four years to implement fully many of these reforms because we need to implement them responsibly."
If it will take four years to implement many of the bill's measures. It has taken the nation nearly a century to get this far. But now, after 14 administrations, the country finally has a health care bill that will provide insurance coverage for millions of Americans who were previously uninsured.
"This year, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions [and] the parents of children who have a pre-existing condition will finally be able to purchase the coverage they need," Obama said to applause as he began to itemize some of bill's immediate impact. "This year--this year, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people's coverage when they get sick...and they won't be able to place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive."
Furthermore, he added, all the new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care. "And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents' policies until they are 26 years old," he said, bringing the audience to its feet with resounding applause. Just as no Republicans voted for the bill, which tallied at 219 to 212, none were on hand to witness the historic occasion.
Though the president has signed the bill into law, there remains some unfinished business in the Senate, where the reconciliation portion looms, and the Republicans have promised another round of stubborn resistance.
"We've heard a lot today about how historic this bill is, and it's true. It is an historic betrayal of the clear will of the American people," said Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "It is an historic loss of liberty. It is an historic escalation of publicly funded abortions, no matter what executive order President Obama signs. This bill inserts big government right into the most personal, life-and-death moments a family can face."
Steele added, "We will not surrender our liberties. We will not hand our children a poorer, weaker America than the one we inherited. Come November, the American people will have the last say."
It appears that some Republicans are not content to wait until November and have promised to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the bill that mandates insurance for all Americans. At least 11 attorney generals, all Republicans, are ready to take this battle to the Supreme Court, and if the complaint gets that far, it should be well-received by four of the nine justices.