Iowa City Stories

May 8, 2010

The Road to Reform

The Beginning

During the 2008 presidential campaign, healthcare reform was one of the top issues of concern.

Around 47 million Americans were without health coverage and millions more without adequate coverage. Americans were having to choose between putting food on the table or having to pay for much needed medication. Most Americans chose to put food on the table and, unfortunately, made due with their health.

45,000 Americans were dying every year to do either poor, or non-existent, coverage.

Going to Work

After Barack Obama was elected president, he went straight to work on repairing the ails of the country. His first project, and rightfully so, was to bailout a number of big banks to prevent another Great Depression.

But after the bailouts, Obama immediately turned his focus onto healthcare. Attempting to make due on his promise, he let the Congress know that he would not anything less than a public option in a bill that reached his desk. The Congress immediately went to work.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, began wrangling fellow Democrats to being the process of constructing a health bill in Obama’s vision.

An Unexpected Turn

While ideas of how to construct the healthcare bill were in the works, Congress went to recess over the summer months of 2009. Democrats decided to place any legislation-building on hold to win the hearts and minds of their constituents at home.

This strategy, Democrats hoped, would place the Republicans in a tough spot; to prevent them from any legislative blocking measures such as the use of the filibuster. Democrats believed their constituents were very much in favor of reforming the healthcare industry and were desperately wanting a public option.

What happened over the three months was a situation the Democrats, and the President, didn’t expect to have happen.

Republican members of Congress were labeling the public option as the expansion of the Federal government and the beginning of when the government would be telling its citizens how to live their own lives.

Hundreds of town hall meetings took place during the period, and the Republicans were on the offensive. The bad news for Democrats? The Republican message was winning.

Rise of the Death Panels

At these town hall meetings, many American citizens voiced their concerns that the government was, indeed, becoming too large and would infringe upon any rights they had as individuals.

Democratic members of Congress, all to often, came face-to-face with scared and angry constituents at their town halls and spent much of their time on the defensive.

Republican members of Congress met with the same crowd of Americans, but seemed to be more welcomed by their constituents. Republicans echoed their constituents concerns at these meetings in order to solidify their message. It was working.

Media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity were helping to spread the Republican message. As the summer drew on, more and more pollsters found that more Americans were not favoring a reform on healthcare.

It wasn’t until August when the most damning assault on healthcare reform arrived: death panels.

Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, stated that the Federal government, under the proposed healthcare reform, would be “putting Grandma to death.”

This became very disturbing to elderly citizens and the message spread, like wildfire, throughout the media. Soon enough, prominent Republicans, such as Sarah Palin, began echoing the message that Senator Grassley has spawned.

Democrats realized that the road to health reform, could very well be lost.

Pressing On

By late summer, the Democrats began to wonder if a repeat of 1994 was going to occur. In 1994, the Clinton Administration had tried their hand at health reform only to have it utterly defeated by the newly elected Republican Congress. It was a bitter defeat for the administration.

While Democrats lost the message war, they weren’t losing their fight. But it became clear that a public option in the bill was not going to happen, so other means of passing healthcare reform had to be explored.

Pelosi’s Victory

It was up to House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to gather fellow Democrats for an historic vote. Pelosi worked tirelessly to gain the minimum 218 votes needed to pass the bill in the House.

In November, the healthcare bill finally saw voting time. The bill passed by a 220-215 margin.

While it was history in the making, the media felt that health reform was still very much in danger due to the small margin of victory and, now, having to go through a much more stubborn Senate.

Senator Reed’s Battle

Like his House counterpart, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, had to deliver enough votes on health reform.

But the problem was that Senate Republicans were going to be more difficult than their colleagues in the House. They were not going to rollover and let this bill slide through as easily. Senate Republicans wanted to amend the bill; to eliminate aspects of it that they did not agree with and, then, to push it through.

Senator Reid faced a tougher challenge than Speaker Pelosi. There was worry that, even though Republicans didn’t have the minimum 40 members required to start a filibuster, there was concern that any blue-dog Democrat, such as Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, may join the Republicans in slowing the process down, if not, defeating the healthcare bill all together.

After going through numerous committees, some changes had been made to the bill. But there was now concern that if enough changes took place, the bill would have to go back to the House for approval if the Senate were to pass it.

Speaker Pelosi expressed some concerns of that situation taking place, but was not going to worry too much about it unless it did become a reality. Senate Democrats had enough time to block Republican amendments to the bill and to speed it up to a vote.

That’s exactly what they did.

Senate Passes Reform

Senate Democrats decided that the Republican party had enough say in the health reform debate. They believed Republicans were only obstructing the process instead of bringing solutions to the table and blocked any proposed amendments to the bill; such as an abortion amendment that wouldn’t allow Federal funds to pay for a woman’s abortion.

When it came time to vote, the Senate passed the healthcare bill by a margin of 60-39.

Signed into Law

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the healthcare bill into law. History was made.

Two days after signing, President Obama went on a cross-country tour to celebrate the victory and to continue to build support for health reform.

His first stop was at the University of Iowa; a town that is as pro-Obama as you can get. During his speech, in front of 3,000 people at the Field House on the University of Iowa campus, President Obama celebrated the victory.

But what was more important to him was to let people know that, while a huge battle was fought and won, so much more work needed to be done.


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