President Obama’s year long struggle to pass health care reform will presumably end today as he will sign the bill that passed through Congress on Sunday. The struggle will “presumably” end because now the President must sell his plan to a nation that is very skeptical and he must fight renewed attacks from Republicans who are mounting a fresh offensive to have the bill repealed by threatening lawsuits and legislation that would deem the new health care bill un-Constitutional.
Regardless of what happens down the road, the fact that this bill passed at all is remarkable. The Republican party killed health care reform during the Clinton presidency with clever political maneuvering and the aid of health industry lobbyists. This time around the health industry actually aligned with the Obama Administration to some degree, but Republicans seemed to have the very idea of health reform stymied with their new “Party of No” philosophy. Yet, the President WILL sign the bill amid much fanfare and backslapping.
Politically, the health care bill‘s passage is a big win for an Obama Administration that has had precious few victories to celebrate. For Democratic leaders passing health care reform marks one of the few meaningful pieces of legislation they have passed since sweeping Republicans out of power 4 years ago. Whether this victory clears the November thunderstorms that many experts predict for Democratic lawmakers running for re-election is hard to tell.
For Republicans, the health care bill’s passage marks a defeat and an apparent stall in momentum for what has been an otherwise banner year for the minority party. Republicans had used everything from fictional “death panels”, warning cries of “socialism”, and even raised the specter of the Obama Administration using health care reform as a way to “pull the plug on grandma”. The strategy seemed full-proof, the simple act of blocking reform without bothering to bring forth a counter-option appeared to be supremely successful as Republicans painted a picture of an America that did not want health care reform (never mind the fact that it was the key talking point of President Obama’s successful bid for the nation’s highest seat).
Now, with the bill passed, the real fight will begin. States like Texas and Florida are already lining up to fight the government’s attempt at health care reform. Republicans are re-grouping and devising a new strategy that they hope can be used to poison the public against the bill and potentially see it repealed. For the American people this bill has many fascinating changes that will take effect almost immediately, others that will take some time to be put in place. The President hits the road today to pitch his plan to Americans and to lend support to Democratic lawmakers who risked significant political capital to make sure health care reform was pushed through and passed. Like the year of contentious, and often boorish, debate that preceded the health care bill’s signing, this next act should prove to be wildly raucous and heated.