HEALTH REFORM -- March 22, 2010 at 9:30 AM EDT
President Obama, Democrats Pass Historic Health Care Bill. Now What?
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden embrace in the White House following Sunday night's vote passing health care reform. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)
With President Barack Obama set to sign into law the most sweeping overhaul to the nation's health care system in decades, both parties will begin to shift their focus to either selling or distancing themselves from the landmark legislation ahead of this fall's midterm elections.
While Sunday's vote concludes one of the most contentious legislative battles in the nation's history, the political repercussions are likely to be felt for months and years to come.
For Democrats, a White House-led public relations blitz is set to kick-off immediately. Driving the message "is the belief among Obama's top advisers that Republicans have boxed themselves into a corner with unanimous opposition to the legislation and talk of a repeal," reports the Washington Post's Michael Shear.
That blitz will entail the efforts of a coalition of progressive groups, according to Politico, that "will sink millions of dollars into television advertising and sponsor grassroots events in swing House districts thanking Democrats for passing the law and highlighting its importance for average Americans."
Republicans, for their part, are promising to make health care reform the defining issue in this November's elections. Central to the GOP strategy will be a push to repeal the law. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed last week, "There's an overwhelming likelihood that every race in the country is going to be a referendum on this issue this fall if this passes."
The fight will also play out in the courts, reports the New York Times, noting, "Attorneys general in three states -- Virginia, Florida and South Carolina -- have indicated they will file legal challenges to the measure, on the grounds that it violates the Constitution by requiring individuals to purchase insurance."
But before getting too far ahead, there is still plenty of reaction to Sunday's groundbreaking vote. Here's a sampling:
"Make no mistake, it's a genuinely historic moment, a realization that only now seems to be dawning on people," writes Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. Even if health care reform costs Democrats their majorities in Congress come November, "they'll be able to say: This is what we used these majorities to do. And it was worth it."
"As of yesterday, America had the most screwed-up health-insurance system in the developed world," says the Economist's Democracy in America blog. "As of today, America probably still has the most screwed-up health-insurance system in the developed world, but it's significantly less screwed-up than it was yesterday."
"No matter what happens next, Obama's successful effort to reshape the country's social safety net is a turning point in his presidency," writes Slate's John Dickerson.
"As a piece of social policy, the health bill passed Sunday night by the House of Representatives ranks up there with the Great Society programs of Lyndon B. Johnson in ambition and scope. But here's one big difference: The Great Society programs were enacted in an era when Americans still tended to trust the government to get things done," says Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Atlantic's Clive Crook: "Remarkable as it may be -- and welcome, too, as I believe -- it is nonetheless a tainted victory....What the country dislikes is this particular bill, and the Democrats, intent on arguing among themselves, barely even tried to change its mind."
"This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker," says Paul Krugman of the New York Times. "But it is also a victory for America's soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out."
"The bad part of the bad news is that this legislation would nevertheless inhibit our nation's ability to meet the basic human needs of its citizens. It would deny needed medical care to millions, even as it causes health-care costs to rise. It would sap individual initiative, destroy jobs, trap the poor in poverty and dependence, block innovations that would make us healthier and wealthier, and politicize matters that should not be politicized," says the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon.
John Nichols counters in the Nation, "The health-care reform that FDR imagined and Democrats in the House have finally enacted 'will stand the test of time.'"