Obama signs healthcare into law
President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law on Tuesday, capping a legislative victory Democrats have sought for decades.
"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 minutes before signing the legislation.
"Here in this country we shape our own destiny," Obama said. "We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everyone should have some basic security when it comes to their healthcare."
He later added that he was signing the bill for his mother, who he said had battled with insurance companies.
Obama was surrounded by House and Senate leaders and key committee chairmen who had worked on healthcare reform as he signed the legislation. Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were the closest to Obama.
Others in the picture included Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Acting Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who stepped down from that committee.
The late Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) widow Vicki was nearby, as was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle.
Scores more House and Senate Democrats were bused to the White House to view the ceremony. Many took pictures to document the moment; before Obama came out for the ceremony, members posed in front of his podium.
When Obama arrived, the audience of Democrats started a "fired up, ready to go" chant that was used during Obama's presidential campaign.
Obama praised Pelosi and Reid, who hugged one another.
Obama thanked Congress for grinding through the process, acknowledging lawmakers for "taking its lumps" on the issue.
"Yes we did!" an unidentified lawmaker shouted, prompting laughter.
Senate Democrats are still working on a package of adjustments to the legislation Obama signed into law on Tuesday. The Senate hopes to vote on that package by the end of the week, when it would then be sent to Obama for his signature.
Once those changes are made, the law would expand healthcare access to an estimated 31 million Americans at a cost of $940 billion over 10 years. Those costs are to be offset by a series of reforms and taxes, and congressional budget examiners estimate it will cut $138 billion from deficit over the next decade.
Republicans have scoffed at those projections, and outside observers have raised questions over whether future Congresses will go along with reforms intended to reduce the budget deficit.
The House demanded the package of changes as a condition for passing the Senate bill. The legislation is to be considered under budget reconciliation rules that prevent a GOP filibuster.
Obama and his congressional allies chose to highlight the passage of the Senate bill with a ceremonial bill-signing after a grueling year of legislating.
Though liberals in his party have criticized the president for not pushing stronger reform, Democrats largely reacted with a mixture of relief and exuberance to the passage of a bill that was pronounced dead on more than one occasion.
At points in the debate, it seemed possible Obama would repeat the failure of President Bill Clinton, whose ambitious plans for healthcare reform collapsed in Congress. Democrats went on to be crushed in the following midterms.
Democrats hope that the controversy surrounding the current legislation will subside by November, alleviating what they fear could be substantial losses in both chambers.
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