56 years ago, after the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education, Ernest Rubenstein, clerk to Justice Tom Clark, , felt relief. “I felt good – and clean,” he says. “It was just so right.”
And so it is today. The House has herded its cats and passed the Senate Health Insurance Reform bill, and a package of fixes as well. When all is said and done, and the Senate passes the reconciliation package, the Democratic Party will have achieved the greatest progressive legislative victory in 45 years.
Watching the various Republican representatives rail against health care was surreal. Their arguments fell into three categories:
- Tax Hike!
- Government paid abortion!
- Government takeover!
- Republicans were locked out of the process!
Another special moment? When Devin Nunes (R-CA) went all cold war talking about a Soviet-style takeover of health care. I wonder if he realizes that half the country doesn’t actually remember the cold war.
Another GOP rep went off message and noted how much less Canada spends on health care than we do. Um, you do know some of us would be thrilled with a Canadian-style system, right?
Two months ago, after Scott Brown momentarily paralyzed the Democratic Party with fear, a lot of us wondered whether Democrats would come to their senses and finish the job, or throw up their hands and give up. Given the party’s history, the smart money was on the latter,
And yet health care reform didn’t die. And we have two people, principally, to thank for that.
First, Nancy Pelosi. After the Brown election, she pushed hard for finishing the job – not incrementally, but with a comprehensive bill like the one passed – in two pieces – last night.
During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push — dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”
Pelosi even coined a term to describe Emanuel’s scaled-down approach: “Kiddie Care,” according to a person privy to the call.
Pelosi’s remark was more than just a diss. It sent a clear signal to House leadership that Pelosi wouldn’t compromise — and it coincided with Obama’s own decision to renew his push for an all-encompassing bill after weeks of confusion and discussion.
Second, Barack Obama. He got a lot of criticism over the past year for not inserting himself into the process, or pushing hard for one solution or another. The shorthand for this criticism was that he hadn’t shown “leadership.”
I think people will have to let go of that criticism, too.
Many people look at the much-hyped “Healthcare summit” as the point when the momentum shifted, ever so slightly, towards the Democrats’ plan.
I think it was when Obama went to the House GOP retreat, carved up the GOP on their own turf, and regained a bit of his swagger.
Whichever it is, as health care reform came off of life support, Barack Obama threw his energy into selling it, and Nancy Pelosi went to work on her fractious caucus. Harry Reid worked his caucus, too, to make sure they’d commit to passing the reconciliation fix.
And now it’s almost done. One semi-tricky Senate vote to go.
On election night, after Obama won, I channeled my childhood Mets fan:
I’m reminded of when the Mets won the world series in 1969. A reporter asked Mets Manager Gil Hodges if he could put into words what that victory for the perennial cellar-dwellars meant. Hodges laughed, spread his hands wide, and said, “Can’t be done.”
Today, it can. The United States has taken a giant step towards joining the civilized world in how it handles health care for its citizens.
And it does feel so right.