Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Long March in the Name of Change

March 21, 2010

Another Long March in the Name of Change

By CARL HULSE
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Forty-five years ago, John Lewis began the third of what became society-shifting civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. On Sunday, the anniversary of that famous trek, he joined hands with fellow House Democrats and marched past jeering protesters into the Capitol to remake the nation’s health care system.

“Today we are walking again, and we will be walking into history,” Mr. Lewis, a Georgian, said as the House neared the climax of a marathon health care debate that has stirred partisan passions across the nation and allowed Democrats to claim an achievement that has eluded them for decades. “This is our time.”

Several hours later, Mr. Lewis and 223 other Democrats strode onto the House floor to formally record their yes votes to lift the bill past its main procedural hurdle, brushing aside Republican warnings of political doom and epithets aimed at them over the weekend from a few of the more strident opponents.

When the decisive 216th vote went up on the electronic tally board in the House chamber, Democrats erupted in cheers and reprised the “Yes, we can!” chant from the Obama presidential campaign. Outside, a different cry was heard as the 219-to-212 final vote was announced: Protesters against the bill sang the lyrics “nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye,” suggesting Democrats would be voted out of Congress because of the health care bill.

It was a celebratory, tense, angry, confrontational, momentous Sunday on Capitol Hill as House Democrats, led determinedly by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, finally nailed down the votes for legislation that they said would make it possible for virtually every American to obtain health insurance and medical care. The debate continued into the night, with President Obama and his party confident they had secured victory on the final votes to come.

Love it or hate it, there was no dispute that the health care overhaul was the most significant and far-reaching piece of domestic policy legislation to come before Congress in years.

Republicans clearly hated it.

“Freedom dies a little a bit today,” Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said in one of the many harsh Republican condemnations of the measure, which they excoriated for its cost, its deep reach into American lives and what they said was its potential to bankrupt the country and damage its health care system.

Their sentiments were shared by hundreds of Americans hostile to the measure who gathered outside the Capitol. They vented their opposition with chants of “Kill the bill,” booing Democrats and cheering Republicans as they ran the gantlet of protesters on their way to the floor to vote throughout the day.

Representative Barney Frank, the openly gay Massachusetts Democrat who had anti-gay slurs hurled at him by protesters, said the opposition had spiraled badly out of control.

“It is almost like the Salem witch trials,” Mr. Frank said. “The health bill has become their witch. It is a supernatural force, and you get hysteria. There is an anger obviously that goes beyond anything connected to the bill.”

Despite the protests, despite the months of cable television denunciations, despite their warnings that Democrats would be massacred at the polls in November, despite their concerted effort to attack the measure from nearly every conceivable angle, Republicans ultimately found themselves powerless to stop it.

Democrats crossed the threshold for passage just after 4 p.m. Sunday, when Representative Bart Stupak and six other anti-abortion Democrats trooped into a crowded television studio on the third floor of the Capitol to announce they had struck a deal with Mr. Obama on abortion financing restrictions and would back the measure.

At that point, approval of the landmark legislation was simply a matter of time. Later, as Mr. Stupak spoke about the legislation on the House floor, someone shouted “baby killer,” although it was not clear who had made the remark.

The moods of the two parties could not have been more different. Democrats were jubilant; they saw the bill as the culmination of a four-decade fight to expand health coverage, coming as many Americans find themselves with rising insurance costs and declining access to care.

“It is time to put American families back in control of their health care,” Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said as the debate began.

But Republicans were outraged, characterizing the legislation as a major step toward socialism and an aggressive government takeover of the health care system. They said Democrats would rue the day they pushed health legislation through without any Republican support.

“Let’s see who is still here after the American people speak loud and clear in November,” Representative Connie Mack, Republican of Florida, said in a barb aimed at Democrats seated across the aisle.

Outside the Capitol, protesters sought to make their presence known to those inside as they rang bells, blew horns and amplified their angry voices raised against the legislation.

“Nancy Pelosi, you will burn in hell for this,” one woman intoned repeatedly through a bullhorn.

Egging on the crowd, Republicans appeared frequently on a second-floor balcony of the Capitol to give the protesters the thumbs-up and display their own “Kill the bill” signs. Republicans even borrowed a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag from the group to wave above the crowd.

One protester was ejected from the House chamber for shouting against the legislation. He was cheered by some Republicans, a gesture condemned by Democrats, who said Republicans were encouraging disruptions.

Republicans said the protests were simply a reflection of public disgust with both the measure and the procedural hoops Democrats were jumping through to get it to the president’s desk. “The public is on our side,” said Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the No. 3 House Republican, standing outside the Capitol as the chants rang around him. “The American people are rising up with one voice and saying enough is enough.”

Mr. Lewis said he was not intimidated as he walked to the Capitol with his colleagues, including Ms. Pelosi. In 1965, Mr. Lewis was bloodied and beaten by the police as he marched for civil rights.

“What was so different more than anything else,” he said of Sunday’s walk, “was we had the protection of the Capitol police.”

1 comment:

MickeyWhite said...

But 400 BILLION on unconstitutional health care is ok?

Prescription Drug Benefit.
The final version (conference report) of H.R. 1 would create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Beginning in 2006, prescription coverage would be available to seniors through private insurers for a monthly premium estimated at $35. There would be a $250 annual deductible, then 75 percent of drug costs up to $2,250 would be reimbursed. Drug costs greater than $2,250 would not be covered until out-ofpocket expenses exceeded $3,600, after which 95 percent of drug costs would be reimbursed. Low-income recipients would receive more subsidies than other seniors by paying lower premiums, having smaller deductibles, and making lower co-payments for each prescription. The total cost of the new prescription drug benefit would be limited to the $400 billion that Congress had budgeted earlier this year for the first 10 years of this new entitlement program. The House adopted the conference report on H.R. 1 on November 22, 2003 by a vote of 220 to 215 (Roll Call 669).
Marsha Blackburn Voted FOR this bill.
Marsha Blackburn is my Congressman.
See her unconstitutional votes at :
http://tinyurl.com/qhayna
Mickey