From Sunlen Miller:
Describing the bill signing as “remarkable and improbable” President Obama today signed the health care bill into law making the “reality of reform,” confront “the overheated rhetoric.”
“Today, after almost a century of trying, today, after over a year of debate, today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America,” Obama said from the East Room today before signing the bill. “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.”
Surrounded by members of Congress, Vicki Kennedy, and people from the anecdotes told over the years about health care struggles, the president said from the East Room that at times over the last year it was easy to doubt today.
“With all the punditry, all of the lobbying, all 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, we are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust.”
The president called out the Senate who will undergo the reconciliation process, what president Obama called “the last round of improvements” that he is “confident they will make swiftly.”
At times the celebration in the East Room took on the air of a one-sided Sate of the Union – the president was interrupted after most sentences when the whole audience would rise from their seats and applaud.
The president thanked “one of the best speakers the House of Representatives have ever had,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Leader Reid, and the “uncommon courage” of the United States Senate – especially those “who’ve taken their lumps during this difficult debate.”
“Yes we did,” shouted Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) in response.
Calling up emotional stories told throughout the health care debate, the president said that he was not only signing the reform bill into law on behalf of her mother who argued with insurance companies as she battled cancer in her final days, but also others like Ryan Smith, a small business owner who will benefit from eh reform, and eleven-year-old Marcellus Owens who’s mother died because she couldn’t afford
“I’m signing it for Natoma Canfield,” the president said of the woman from Ohio who saw health care premiums raised by more than 40%, “She was terrified that an illness would mean she’d lose the house that her parents built, so she gave up her insurance. And now she’s lying in a hospital bed as we speak, faced with just such an illness, praying that she can somehow afford to get well without insurance.”
The president asked Natoma’s sister who was in the audience to stand up.
“I’m signing this bill for all the leaders who took up this cause through the generations, from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson, from Bill and Hillary Clinton to one of the deans who’s been fighting this so long, John Dingell to Senator Ted Kennedy.”
Vicki Kennedy beforehand gave President Obama a plastic blue bracelet which he wore during the signing which said “Ted Strong.” Rep. Patrick Kennedy gave the president a copy of the first universal health care bill that his father introduced to the Senate.