March 22nd, 2010
11:17 AM ET

Health bill a milestone - or a mistake?

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For decades, health care has sparked controversy in American politics. In the 14 months since President Obama took the oath of office, the issue has been debated passionately and exhaustively. With House passage of a sweeping health care bill, CNN.com asked a variety of political and medical experts to comment.

John Avlon
The Daily Beast

First, the big picture - the passage of health care reform is a huge win for President Obama, a goal that has been unsuccessfully pursued by presidents since Teddy Roosevelt. But while Obama succeeded in gaining the endorsement of the American Medical Association, an influential opponent of previous health care reform efforts, this is unfortunately not a unifying win for the nation.

After a year of heated debate, the American people remain deeply divided on this legislation, and Democrats are looking at a tough re-election fight this fall. Most major pieces of social legislation in American history - such as Social Security, Medicaid and welfare reform - have passed with broad bipartisan support. The Democrats' political bet is that rallying the base with a win on liberals' longtime No. 1 issue will outweigh anger from conservatives and distrust of one-party rule from independent voters.

The reality is that even though the vote is over, the fight over health care reform is not. Opponents, including the attorneys general of several states, are expected to file lawsuits asking the courts to declare the bill unconstitutional. The anger of conservative activists has been stirred to fever pitch - witness the spitting at Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver or slurs directed at Reps. John Lewis and Barney Frank during Capitol Hill protests Saturday - and it will not go away any time soon. At a time when some people feel like losing an election is living under tyranny, the passage of this health care reform bill has taken on significance far beyond the legislation itself.


Filed under: 360° Radar
March 22nd, 2010
11:04 AM ET

Pelosi emerges as powerhouse in D.C.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/03/21/zelizer.pelosi.leadership/t1larg.pelosi.dems.gavel.gi.jpg caption="U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington."]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

The passage of health care will certainly rank as one of the major political achievements of recent decades.

Legislation that will eventually extend health care coverage to more than 30 million more Americans, greatly expand the number of options that citizens have when purchasing health care, bring healthy citizens into the pool of the insured and thus lower costs and create important regulations on health care companies will be remembered as one of the biggest domestic policy changes since the Great Society of the 1960s.

While most attention will focus on President Obama for pulling off a Herculean task that eluded many of our great presidents, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington.

She has pursued a clear ideological agenda but through pragmatic political tactics. Like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, she stands for something, yet knows how to round up votes.

Since the 2008 election, Pelosi has been the most reliable leader Democrats have had. She has delivered on almost all of the legislation that the White House sent to Congress, even as her colleagues found themselves frustrated by a Senate that seemed incapable of governance.


Filed under: 360° Radar
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