President Obama Tuesday signed into law the landmark health care bill passed by House Democrats on Sunday, celebrating the occasion at the White House with lawmakers and key advocates who helped the White House sell their plan.
The bulk of the health care legislation debated for over a year is now the law of the land. The Senate is working this week on tweaks to some parts of the bill, most of them meant to pacify the liberal wing of the Democratic party and labor unions.
“Today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in America,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received a loud and sustained standing ovation from a packed room of Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate, White House staff, advocates and stakeholders.
Most of the 219 House Democrats who voted for the legislation were there, as were a large number of Democratic senators.
“You’ve made history,” Biden said to the lawmakers, before he introduced the president.
Turning to Obama, Biden lauded him for his leadership and resolve in pushing forward with the bill when the cause appeared to be lost.
“Mr. President, you’re the guy that made it happen,” Biden said.
Obama stood silently as Biden paid tribute, hands crossed in front of him, shoulders somewhat slumped, head down.
The president said he was signing the legislation in memory of his mother, who fought with insurers over her health bills as she died of cancer, and for all other Americans who Democrats say they will help receive affordable health coverage through the legislation.
Republicans offered a muted response, in keeping with their attempts not to behave as if a political victory is inevitable in this fall’s congressional midterm elections.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, called it “a somber day for the American people.”
The president, Boehner said, was “abandoning our founding principle that government governs best when it governs closest to the people.”
“The devastating consequences of this legislation will be felt in broken promises, higher costs, lost jobs and fewer freedoms,” Boehner said, vowing to fight for repeal of the legislation, which would require that Republicans retake the majority in the House.
White House officials debated whether or not to hold off on a public celebration of passage until the Senate passes a series of fixes to the bill this week, but decided to go ahead now rather than wait. The more liberal wing of the House Democratic caucus fears that the Senate will not keep their part of the bargain, which is what convinced many of them to vote for the bill on Sunday.
Some lawmakers told The Daily Caller that they would have preferred the White House postpone its celebration until the adjustments are through the House.
But the White House calculation was that now, two days after the bill’s passage, would be the most natural time to do it. By waiting until Tuesday, they gave themselves one day to gauge whether the Senate will be able to pass the bulk of the fixes so they can reassure House Democrats who might be nervous about a premature celebration that the deal will go through.