Monday, 22 March 2010

"A new presidency for Obama"

The House of Representatives approves the healthcare reform bill, something the Democrats had been trying to do since 1945 and that took centre stage in the White House agenda.

From El Pais, Spain, 22/03/2010

Antonio CaƱo, Washington

The acting leader of the House, David Obey, banged the gavel at 22.45 (03.45 CET) to announce that the Healthcare Reform Bill of the United States had been approved with 219 votes in favour against 212 against.

In the Oval Office, surrounded by his collaborators, Barack Obama lived the moment like the sound of bell-ringings, the type of glory that is worth the most brutal of political battles. The Bill may not be officially assured yet, but the future of Obama's Presidency is.

For American society, the gavel brought to an end a day which had been memorable, both in terms of the drama and the emotions that led to it, as well as for the monumental consequences that will follow the vote.

Around 32 million uninsured will now be provided health coverage through the state. This will be the end for the tyranny of those private health insurers who impose unfair premiums and conditions. The Government will help small businesses who cannot offer their staff health insurance and will set penalities for those who refuse to provide coverage. Also, relationships with doctors and hospitals will be reviewed and healthcare will be guaranteed to both children and the young unemployed.

In a nutshell, the gavel heralded a huge step forward in the direction of better social justice and, symbolically, a massive blow against the Republicans, who tried every possible startegy to derail the reform. The majority of Democrats decided to finally lend their support in spite of the persistent warnings from the opposition (as well as some opinion polls) that the bill could prove electorally costly.

A last minute deal was struck with around ten pro-life Democrats led by Congressman Bart Stupak - President Obama will sign an executive order guaranteeing that no public funds will be used for abortions. This proved crucial to secure the last necessary votes.

Last night, along with the Bill, the House voted a series of amendments to be added to the text once it secures the Senate's approval. The Republicans could delay the process, but can no longer stop the Bill which simply needs the President's signature to be completed.

This success heralds a new presidency for Obama. Concluded the long and winded process that led to the Health Bill approval, the US President is a new man. Accomplished a mission that absorbed all his energy, he has now the opportunity to achieve other domestic goals (the Energy Bill, education reforms, the Immigration Bill, etc) as well as play a bigger role in foreign affairs.

Few presidents have had such a clear opportunity of boosting their mandate at this stage because few presidents have been at the core of an event of such magnitude. This is the equivalent of 9/11 for George W Bush, a landmark event that turned him from moderate politician into a fanatical neo-con.

March 21 won't turn Obama into a previously unseen version of himself. More likely, it will signify the making of an incredible candidate and a fully fledged president.

In the run-up to the 2008 election, Obama conceded in an interview that nobody studies to become president and that it's a job you only learn by actually doing it. And he's acted like an amateur for most of the time he's spent in the White House. Someone with good intentions and good ideas, willful and confident, but with evident lack of experience.

Without the help of a seasoned Washington professional such as Nancy Pelosi, the dream of a Healthcare Reform would long ago have died a premature death.

On the other side, without Obama's vision and the prominence that he gave this Bill as his number one priority, this project would have fallen into the same black holes that sucked in all of his predecessors'.

The debate taught Obama a few things that may prove useful in the long term. One, for instance, is the President's isolation. Obama learnt that no Congress member, including those most loyal to his party, would ever risk their career to save the President. Until the end of February, when Obama took full responsibility for the Bill, negotiations had ground to a standstill.

Also, Obama learnt that bipartisanship is a beautiful concept but not an easy one to pull off. Since last summer, the Republicans spotted the Healthcare Reform Bill as the President's Achille's heel and went for the jugular. Yesterday, the Republican's leader in the House, John Boehner, warned that "this war isn't over".

Saturday at Capitol Hill, Obama made his best pitch for health reform: "we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community and we are willing to look out for one another and help people who are vulnerable and help people who are down on their luck and give them a pathway to success and give them a ladder into the middle class".

(link to original article)

[Translated by myself as best I could].

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