Obama Signs Historic Health Care Bill: 'It Is The Law of The Land'

The $938 billion bill will entail major changes for Americans.

ByABC News
March 23, 2010, 10:28 AM

March 23, 2010— -- After more than a year of negotiations, debate and political drama, President Obama today signed the historic health care bill that could reshape care for millions of Americans while setting up a divisive battle with Republicans that's expected to spill into the November elections and beyond.

"After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise," Obama said at an event after the signing ceremony at the Department of Interior. "It is the law of the land."

The president took a direct stab at critics of health care overhaul, saying they are "still making a lot of noise" about what the new law means.

"I heard one of the Republican leaders say this was going to be Armageddon. Well, two months from now, six months from now, you can check it out. We'll look around and we'll see," Obama said to applause.

The president signed the health care bill into law at the White House this morning. He was joined by Americans whose stories have touched the president, and Democrats who voted for the health care bill.

"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 to a standing ovation.

"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 added. "We are a nation that faces its challenges and accepts its responsibilities."

The attendees chanted "Fired up, ready to go" -- Obama's campaign slogan -- as the president and Vice President Joe Biden arrived at the East Room.

"Ladies and gentleman, to state the obvious, this is a historic day," Biden said to a cheering crowd before the president took the podium.

As Biden finished his remarks and shook Obama's hand, he was heard on the microphone whispering, "This is a big f-ing deal."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted soon afterward, "And yes Mr. Vice President, you're right..."

The president said he was signing the bill on behalf of his mother and those Americans, who like her, had to fight with health insurance companies. Obama also hailed lawmakers for making the tough decision to support the health care bill, and taking "their lumps during this difficult debate," in response to which Congressman Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., shouted, "Yes, we did."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is credited with bringing together enough Democrats to overcome the final hurdle of passing the bill in the House, received special recognition. As Obama recognized Pelosi as "one of the best speakers the House of Representatives have ever had," the crowd unanimously chanted, "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy."

Vicki Reggie Kennedy, wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, was also present at the event. In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Kennedy said her husband would've been "exhilarated" and "thrilled" by the passage of the bill. Sen. Kennedy, who was behind many landmark health bills, made health care reform the mission of his long Senate career.

Before the signing ceremony today, Vicki Kennedy gave Obama a plastic blue bracelet that said "TedStrong." The president and several lawmakers were seen wearing the bracelet. The late senator's son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., gave the president a copy of the first universal health care bill that his father introduced in the Senate.

But even while there was jubilation at the White House, Republicans promised a tough fight ahead. The Republican National Committee's "Fire Nancy Pelosi" Web site surpassed $1 million in funds raised since the health care legislation passed Sunday evening. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin unveiled a list of 17 Democratic members of Congress who she wants to target in the upcoming mid-term elections.

"We're going to reclaim the power of the people from those who disregarded the will of the people. We're going to fire them and send them back to the private sector, which has been shrinking thanks to their destructive government-growing policies," Palin wrote in an e-mail to supporters seeking to raise money.

On radio and television, conservative commentators lashed out at the lawmakers who passed the legislation.

On his radio program, Rush Limbaugh said, "We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out."

Glen Beck said, "This bill is still jammed down the throats of America, just enough spiny, dirty weasels went along with it."

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who voted 'yes' on the legislation, became a target. Her office in Arizona was vandalized over night.

In Florida, Bill McCollum became the first of 14 state attorney generals to file a lawsuit against the health care law. The states' attorney general are filing suits to block the health care law on the grounds that its requirement that everyone have health insurance is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit is "about forcing people to buy health insurance when there's no provision in the Constitution that allows for anybody to be forced to do something when there's no commerce, no action, you're just sitting there," said McCollum. "And it's about the question of forcing the state of Florida and other states against the sovereignty that's guaranteed in the Constitution to our states to do things that are practically impossible to do."

Four state legislatures have already passed laws blocking the bill. On Wednesday, Virginia's GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell will sign the bill into the state's law, making it illegal for the federal government to require Americans to purchase health insurance.