Today is a day for the history books, on two fronts. The United States Senate passed H.R. 3590 (the health care bill), with sixty “yes” votes and 39 “no” votes. However, it almost didn’t pass, because Senator Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont missed the first vote, and came bursting into the chamber giving the clerk a thumbs up for his “yes” vote. In the end, Vice President Joe Biden acted in his dual role as President of The Senate and made it official. On the second front, The United States Senate has not cast a vote on Christmas Eve since 1895.
Shortly after the passing of the bill, President Barack Obama held a press conference in the State Room of The White House congratulating the hard work of legislators in passing this health care bill.
Obama said the measure the Senate passed “includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable.”
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) of Rhode Island, when asked about the passage of the bill said,
“Today marks another historic day in the journey towards reaching the goal of providing affordable quality health care for all Americans. For the 125,000 residents in Rhode Island who do not currently have insurance, this achievement cannot be understated. My colleagues in the Senate have been burning the midnight oil, literally, to get this done, and I’m hopeful that we’ll pass a strong bill in the next few weeks. I look forward to working with my colleagues in conference to ensure that some of the provisions of the bill passed by the House in November, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, are included in the final legislation. This includes closing the Medicare prescription drug dough nut hole completely for our nation’s seniors. Each year, roughly 31,500 Medicare beneficiaries in Rhode Island hit the ‘dough nut hole,’ or gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage that can cost some seniors an average of $4,080 per year, and the legislation passed by the House closes this hole completely.”
Also in attendance was Rep. John Dingle, longest serving Representative from Michigan, who witnessed this historic vote with the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Vicky Kennedy, from the gallery on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
While many Democrats and progressives are happy that the bill passed, House Minority Leader, Rep. John Boehner ( R) Ohio said,
“Not even Ebenezer Scrooge himself could devise a scheme as cruel and greedy as Democrats’ government takeover of health care,”
he further went on to say
“Senator Reid’s health care bill increases premiums for families and small businesses, raises taxes during a recession, cuts seniors’ Medicare benefits, adds to our skyrocketing debt, and puts bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by patients and doctors.”
Barack Obama has put his Presidency on the line by making this heavy push for health care reform. Even though the President can claim a victory towards passing something that no other President has ever been able to do, only time will tell if this has truly been “change you can believe in”.