Obama: "This is What Change Looks Like"

President Obama after the House passed the health care reform bill:

This is not radical reform, but it is major reform. … This is what change looks like

Full transcript of remarks below: [More...]

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that Americaís workers and Americaís families and Americaís small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams theyíve worked a lifetime to achieve.

Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didnít give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government ó a government of the people and by the people ó still works for the people.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasnít an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

Todayís vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard ó it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up ó let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you.

Most importantly, todayís vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat ó itís always been about something far more personal. Itís about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that their premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. Itís about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told "no" again and again and again. Itís about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.

Tonightís vote is not a victory for any one party ó itís a victory for them. Itís a victory for the American people. And itís a victory for common sense.

Now, it probably goes without saying that tonightís vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. There will be tallies of Washington winners and losers, predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration. But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared, or the status quo that serves the interests of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties ó a system that works better for the American people.

If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known ó so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

If you donít have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance. And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history ó so that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, youíll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade. And itís the right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

So this isnít radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

Now as momentous as this day is, itís not the end of this journey. On Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced, and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that had no place in it. Some have predicted another siege of parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. I hope thatís not the case. Itís time to bring this debate to a close and begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people. This year, and in years to come, we have a solemn responsibility to do it right.

Nor does this day represent the end of the work that faces our country. The work of revitalizing our economy goes on. The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on. The work of putting American familiesí dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their behalf.

In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge ó we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility ó we embraced it. We did not fear our future ó we shaped it.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

< Health Care Bill Passes, Obama to Address Nation Tonight | History's Judgment >
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    From the cheap seats (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Left of the Left on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 12:55:23 AM EST
    Doesnt look a whole lot better. But time will tell I guess.

    I think his framing is instructive (5.00 / 9) (#2)
    by shoephone on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:14:29 AM EST
    and, frankly, a dead giveaway.

    It's not "radical" reform. Because, you know, "radical" would be anything that cow-towed to those "radical" "extremist" DFH's who, barring single payer, lobbied for at least a public option and then and got upset when they were lied to repeatedly about pledges for said public option.

    It's "major" reform. "Major" as in: promotes major, private, for-profit insurance companies who get to continue running the show. Keeps "major" Pharma from losing a dime because of any re-importation of drugs from the socialist republic of Canada.

    Don't worry. It's not "radical." We can all breathe a sigh of relief now.

    I couldn't get past the (5.00 / 6) (#3)
    by nycstray on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:27:07 AM EST
    second paragraph. My Dot couldn't even get close to pooping that much . . .

    You mean this part? (5.00 / 10) (#4)
    by shoephone on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:31:59 AM EST
    "We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests..."

    The ultimate gag line.

    I daresay, that Dot is one smart doggy.


    I heard that live and (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by coast on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:45:58 AM EST
    had to turn him off.

    Me (5.00 / 4) (#24)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:31:43 AM EST
    too. I'm sorry but I couldnt stop laughing. The self congratulatory hubris was so over the top.

    James Clyburn was screeching that it was the most important piece of legislation since Civil RIght. What? Legislation that brings enslavement to the insurance companies is now freedom?


    All that's missing is (5.00 / 11) (#5)
    by MsExPat on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:33:28 AM EST
    the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

    I hope it will do more good than harm (5.00 / 10) (#6)
    by Spamlet on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:33:57 AM EST
    And I'm glad for any good it will do.

    But this is a small-bore, timid, industry-obeisant measure.

    To my mind, it's historic only in marking how far the Democratic Party has fallen from the days and the power of FDR with his New Deal, and LBJ with his Great Society. It also clearly shows how far short today's Democratic Party falls of its former standard of being the voice of ordinary working people.

    How sad if this really is the best we can do. I wonder how many people were thinking two years ago that "change" looks like this.

    It's not the best "we" can do (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by lambert on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:21:54 AM EST
    In Versailles, there is no "we."

    For all the day-long drama (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by Spamlet on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 03:05:23 AM EST
    and heavy breathing about Stupak, and Obama's supposed fig-leaf of an executive order, the president has nothing at all to say about the bill's protection of women's reproductive freedom, or about the bill's assurance of equity in women's access to necessary health care. That's because Obama knows he's got nothing on that score.

    Way to go, New Dems.

    From now on, the Democratic Party's stance on women's reproductive freedom should simply be called the Fetal Position.

    Curl up and roll over.

    What a sad day for America (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by mexboy on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 04:13:49 AM EST
    This is not the change I wanted to see and I hope the Democrats pay a heavy price for it in the next elections.

    American Idol meets FDR (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 04:37:50 AM EST
    Just as people consider that awful wailing to be high art,  many people think this pitiful little bill is a great achievement.
    It is nice that the Republicans with R's by their name (as opposed to the Republicans with D's by their names who wrote this bill) are going bananas over the bill, but that's the main positive achievement

    A couple of questions (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 04:44:55 AM EST
    First, what happens on global warming legislation? I hope this victory means that the Dems will feel less beholden to trying to work with Republicans in the future.

    The other question I have is based on a comment from another thread. Could the no pre-existing conditions clause paradoxically lead to many people foregoing to purchase insurance until they are sick? This hadn't occurred to me before, but given the hefty amount of the mandate premiums  it makes a lot of sense.
    Suppose I don't have insurance now, but when the mandate kicks in I'm supposed to pay $5,000-$10,000. My family and I are healthy, and we can cover doctors' visits out of pocket for a far lower cost. If I don't buy the insurance, I pay a small fine.
    Why not wait?
    This seems like a very rational calculation, especially for a younger, single person---the target of the mandate.

    You just figured that out? (none / 0) (#28)
    by BTAL on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:49:12 AM EST
    The young are not going to pay the high premiums, driven higher by the huge influx of pre-existing customers.  They (the young will pay the fine) all existing premiums are going to take a major hit.

    If I were 20 something and uninsured (none / 0) (#30)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:52:51 AM EST
    it would be a no-brainer, with the pre-existing conditions protection.

    I can see the insurance companies (none / 0) (#45)
    by coast on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:42:55 AM EST
    placing a substantial waiting period before benefits kick in on people who paid fines in the past rather than paying premiums.  They would not be denying you coverage, but there is nothing that says benefits have to immediately begin after approval.

    Yup, that's what my friends are doing (none / 0) (#49)
    by BrassTacks on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 02:13:54 PM EST
    We may well do that too.  We can get a lot of medical care for $6,000 to $10,000.  If we get REALLY sick, we can sign up for insurance at that point.  Seems much cheaper.  

    Never fear (5.00 / 5) (#16)
    by jbindc on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:16:05 AM EST
    Here's what the Obama campaign said re: Hyde

    "Obama does not support the Hyde Amendment," his campaign staff told RH Reality Check in response to a questionnaire from the reproductive rights group. "He believes that the federal government should not use its dollars to intrude on a poor woman's decision whether to carry to term or to terminate her pregnancy and selectively withhold benefits because she seeks to exercise her right of reproductive choice in a manner the government disfavors."

    What a difference an election makes!

    And the "progressive" reaction (5.00 / 4) (#23)
    by lambert on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:23:51 AM EST
    Chris Bowers, bien sur:
    I feel sad that [HCR] came at the cost of throwing reproductive rights under the bus. Any win that means hurting some of your friends is not a full win.

    Feel better? Sweeties?

    You just maxed pissing me off :) (5.00 / 4) (#35)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:23:38 AM EST
    Your wish... (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by lambert on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:51:59 AM EST
    ... is my command ;-)

    Coathanger Death 'Not fun' for Bowers?! How TRAGIC (5.00 / 4) (#37)
    by Ellie on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:44:56 AM EST
    We selfish Women are People Too movementarians so often lose sight of the unsung victims of our extremism: those poor fauxgressive men who view abortion as a chit at the Capitol Casino.

    That this historic accomplishment of setting back women's rights forty years should be spoiled by realizing that doing so isn't even fun ...

    I ... I ... hardly know what to say. Maybe his rollicking sense of good fun will return when he remembers that his personal loss in all of this is sweet f*ck all.


    Surprise, surprise! (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by jbindc on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:33:32 AM EST
    In Reform, Boons for Hospitals and Drug Makers

    Especially drug companies.

    Drug makers, meanwhile, may have the most clear reason to celebrate the legislation. Pharmaceutical companies are going to be asked to contribute $85 billion toward the cost of the bill in the form of industry fees and lower prices paid under government programs over 10 years. But they can look forward to tens of billions of dollars in additional revenue as more people with insurance visit doctors and fill prescriptions.

    The legislation will also eventually close the gap in Medicare drug coverage, known as the doughnut hole, in which elderly patients must pay for prescription drugs rather than having them covered by the government. Many chose to stop taking their medicine or switched to lower-price generics.

    And significantly, the legislation allowed the drug industry to "avoid any of the issues that were particularly of concern -- price control or more regulation by the federal government," said Barbara Ryan, an analyst with Deutsche Bank.

    As a result, the pharmaceutical industry has been a significant proponent of the legislation, in sharp contrast to its behavior when the Clinton administration tried to pass a similar overhaul. The industry spent an estimated $100 million in TV advertising, grass-roots organizing and other marketing efforts to promote reform.

    Had Congress not allowed the (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by MO Blue on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:14:51 AM EST
    pharmaceutical companies to continue to overcharge for Medicare/Medicaid dual eligible people it would have saved 186 billion over the same ten year period.

    I saw that headline. (none / 0) (#18)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:36:32 AM EST
    I think I need a blood pressure prescription now.

    Well, at least SOMEBODY gets a pony! (none / 0) (#42)
    by lambert on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:20:47 AM EST
    Obama's constituents: Big Pharma, Big Money...

    Lessons Learned? (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:10:38 AM EST
    I hope Obama and the rest of the Democrats learn from this experience. After a year of pandering, NOT A SINGLE REPUBLICAN supported this bill.

    Democrats sold out their principles to accomodate a group of people that had absolutely no intention of being accomodating.

    There'a several other major issues that need to be resolved. Immigration, Global Warming, Banking Reform. Will the Democrats have learned enough from the HCR debate to accept that bipartisanship is a campaign slogan that doesn't work in a polarized DC.

    There's way too much money involved in politics to let principle get in the way. Republicans will continue to obstruct every bill in order to try and regain control of the purse strings.

    "For the good of the nation" no longer applies.

    Well, (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:34:08 AM EST
    unfortunately Obama has put himself in a corner with the PPUS stuff. I hear Republicans all the time say he's not being bipartisan because where are the GOP votes? And what can you say? He is the one that constantly hawks bipartisanship as the end all and be all.

    I think perhaps there is hope that other members of the party learned something. We shall see.


    But maybe Obama is right (none / 0) (#26)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:41:42 AM EST
    about the political optics of this.
    I really do give him props for being able to seize the moment strongly---even though I don't care at all for the way he did it or for the result.
    This bill is so center-rightish that Republicans are going to go absolutely nuts (they already have) trying to attack it.
    For me, the more serious concern is whether Obama continues with PPUS  with other issues, including global warming and "entitlement reform".
    I suspect the answer is yes, which means we're headed for some really awful policy.

    Policy (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:04:49 AM EST
    never has been Obama's strong suit. He's like a teenager trying to get through high school by slinging crap. Anyone old thing will do as long as it gets checked off the list.

    Like any good politician, (none / 0) (#40)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:06:54 AM EST
    he's a superb opportunist. The left wing of the Democrat party can either silently assent to the Reaganization of the D's, or they can make moving left seem easier than working with Republicans  (who are the majority of the D's).

    Not a single Republican? You're forgetting... (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by lambert on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:54:39 AM EST
    ... the Republican in the Oval Office...

    My mistake! (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:21:02 AM EST
    There seems to be an abundance of "closeted" Republicans in the Democratic party. Maybe it's time to shrink the big tent?

    If the 50 state strategy means that Democrats have to sell their soul to achieve their goal, maybe there's something wrong with the strategy.


    About America's soul-- (5.00 / 5) (#21)
    by lambert on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:20:46 AM EST
    Contra Paul Krugman:
    America's soul is not going to be saved by a "reform" that promises to leave 7 or 8% of her people completely uninsured, another 10 or 12% insured by a public program that requires them to be poor and stay poor, and yet another 19 or 20% covered by private insurance that's so expensive that after paying their premium they won't have enough money left to pay their doctor. America's soul is not going to be saved by a "reform" that promises to throw some 35 or 40% of her people to the wolves.

    I never ceased to be amazed (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 11:51:14 AM EST
    with your ability to shift from touting a man as an expert whose opinion should be given major weight when he supports you to a fool to be ignored when his opinion differs from your own.

    On a different note (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:31:09 AM EST
    CNN ran a mash up this morning on the ugly tea bag mouth.  It was followed up by more emails about how horrible it is that our political discourse has come to this.  In my opinion pffffft!  The problem is how nicey nice the leftists are forever trying to be....and every single one of them would be mowed down repeatedly and gleefully in a Canadian or British Parliamentary system.  I find it stupid to keep focusing on this NEED for civil politics....as if that has ever been a reality when difficult things ever took place or were done.

    "This is What Change Looks Like" (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 02:15:31 PM EST
    I guess change looks an awful lot like Bob Dole then.

    oh my god, (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:46:03 AM EST
    what gave me away?

    Tonight, we are all radical left-wing socialists who seek nothing less than to impose the Marxist Gay & Lesbian Agenda on our country, destroy our system of free enterprise as we know it, and turn everyone's kids onto the joys of tripping on acid.

    it was the coffee mug, wasn't it? damn, i knew i should have changed it to a more neutral color!

    oh well, lesson learned.

    I think you are right (none / 0) (#9)
    by Spamlet on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 01:50:28 AM EST
    I'm very disappointed in the bill, but the abjection of this dangerously crazy GOP is a beautiful thing to behold, especially after the eight years of Bush/Cheney.

    Too bad the great political victory wasn't accomplished on behalf of a great policy initiative. It's like watching your baseball team beat the Yankees in the last game of the season and get their 41st win of the year.

    At least the right wing is in disarray too (none / 0) (#11)
    by cymro on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 03:23:43 AM EST
    Waterloo (read the comments)

    That's pretty funny. I liked the guy (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by observed on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 05:46:10 AM EST
    who complained that the Democrats rammed the bill through with "parliamentary procedures"!!
    Whoa, nellie! Did the Brits take over again?
    We have a CONGRESS here, not a parliament.

    current crop of "progressives" need NEW (none / 0) (#27)
    by seabos84 on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:43:21 AM EST
    jobs, which means they have to be FIRED,

    AND people really really really gotta stop listening to the whiny, sniveling excuses for them caving over and over and over.

    they're INCOMPETENT at best, sell outs at worst, and new blood is needed.


    Well (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:07:20 AM EST
    according to Charlie Cook the party slated to lose 60 seats in the house last time I looked. So maybe they will learn something with a loss but then again maybe they won't if they continue to listen to the beltway bloviators.

    This was a bi-partisan bill (none / 0) (#29)
    by BTAL on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 07:51:26 AM EST
    for its defeat.  Without Judas Stupak, it would have failed.

    So much for "historic" and "unprecedented".

    Yes, he played his part well (5.00 / 3) (#33)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:08:48 AM EST
    as if it had been planned that way, hmmmmm?

    Don't say it! (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 08:22:20 AM EST
    Have been already thinking it!  It smells a little funky around the edges.

    Emmanuel (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:24:50 AM EST
    Deserves the Tony award for best choreographer. What a dance!

    Don't worry about Bart (5.00 / 2) (#46)
    by jbindc on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:46:46 AM EST
    For those who say he didn't get anything and Obama rolled him - um...not.


    Dated March 19 - so maybe this was all in the works and this weekend was a little theater?


    Yeah darn (3.50 / 2) (#48)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 11:53:30 AM EST
    him for selling out his anti-women principles in order to help the poor, he should have stood up for the babies.