November 10th, 2009
11:10 AM ET

After the House, can health reform survive the Senate?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/20/art.pelosi0720.gi.jpg caption="Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi"]
Jay Newton-Small

On Saturday morning, about 12 hours before the House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation to expand health care coverage to almost all Americans, President Barack Obama did what he does best: he gave an inspirational speech meant to rally recalcitrant House Democrats. Many in the room credited Obama with swaying the last of the fence sitters. "A few members that were leaning no told me afterward that they'd been moved to vote yes," Representative Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, told reporters after the meeting.

Obama spoke of doing something greater than yourself. He asked House Dems to join him in "bending the arc of history," a phrase he first invoked in his election-victory speech a year ago before 125,000 people in Chicago's Grant Park. And though there was cheering and chants of "Fired up, ready to go!" this was no easy sell for Obama. The vote came the same week as Democrats lost the Virginia and New Jersey governors' mansions, and a day after the Labor Department reported a 26-year record unemployment rate of 10.2%. Preaching altruism in such a climate to politicians bent on self-preservation is tough. In the end Democrats lost 39 of their own — passing the bill 220-215 with a cushion of just two votes, one of those a Republican in a heavily Democratic Louisiana district.

Democrats on Capitol Hill spent some of the aftermath congratulating themselves on their historic achievement, but they knew as well as anyone that it was far too early to really celebrate. Obama's speech, after all, was strikingly partisan, lambasting the GOP for doing nothing more than "saying no, stopping progress, gumming up the works." That change in tone from his fruitless attempts at outreach 10 months before in the run-up to the stimulus vote made it clear that Democrats are now resigned to going it alone both in the House and the Senate. Majority leader Harry Reid has moved away from the lone Republican still negotiating on health care, Maine's Olympia Snowe, and toward a plan to pass the bill relying solely on Democratic votes, of which he'll need every one in order to overcome the threat of a filibuster by Republicans.


soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. andrea

    With all the talk about not letting taxpayer money pay for plans that would allow for abortions I was wondering if the plans used by the goverment for its employees, and for the members of the house and senate, that are also paid for with taxpayer money, allow for abortions

    November 10, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  2. John R

    One way to get "real" healthcare reform quickly would be to make the President, his entire cabinet and all 535 members of the house and senate and their staff 1099 contractors to the U.S. government – thereby removing their access to U.S. Gov't benefits and forcing them to go out on the open market to acquire healthcare coverage.

    I'm guessing we'd have a bill approved by both houses of congress and the administration in less than 6 months which would include cost controls, a robust public option, no restrictions for pre-existing conditions and all the rest of the features Americans need.

    November 10, 2009 at 12:12 pm |