After months of negotiations and 24 days of floor debate, Senate Democrats passed a sweeping health care bill on Christmas Eve morning over unanimous Republican objections. Pols and the chattering class say the historic vote could represent the culmination of a century-long struggle or the end of Christmas as we know it:
- The vote moves America one step closer “toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle” to overhaul health care and "includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable," President Obama said.
- "Not even Ebenezer Scrooge himself could devise a scheme as cruel and greedy as Democrats' government takeover of health care," House Minority Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) fumed in a statement. He predicted higher health insurance costs for families and small businesses and criticized raising taxes during a recession.
- Ted Kennedy may be gone – but not forgotten, Dana Milibank writes for The Washington Post. “More than anything, it was his memory, and his final exhortation, that allowed the Senate Democrats to overcome considerable differences between moderates and liberals in drafting a compromise,” he argues. Milibank acknowledges only being able to “guess what the liberal lion would have thought of the bill,” but says it doesn’t matter because so many of his colleagues credited him as their inspiration. “By all accounts, the senior senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy, voted present,” he writes.
- A big bet on the “success or failure of Barack Obama’s presidency, and the success or failure of a newly expanded role for government in the lives of Americans,” journos at The Politico write. “On the left, the bet is that health care reform, even a version most liberals see as flawed, will give the middle class and those clamoring to break into it a greater sense of personal security—enhancing the reputation of and popular support for a dynamic national government,” they argue. For conservatives, “the hope is that their nearly blanket opposition to Obama’s and Democrats’ ideas will position the GOP as the party of sobriety and realism—ready to reap the benefits if people conclude this version of health care reform was a grand mistake.”
- A big win for drug companies, the health insurance industry and some pols, but a big loss for progressives, blogs John Walker for FireDogLake. “Our broken health care system will remain broken and costs will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Things like drug re-importation and a robust public option, which would have helped bring down prices for millions of Americans, were stripped from the bill at the request of powerful industry lobbyists,” he writes. “This is not progressive reform. This is a perverse Democratic version of Reagan style trickle down economics… The only 'check' on the industry will be new regulations, but with extremely weak to practically non-existent enforcement, it is basically no check at all.”
- The end of Christmas, laments a CSPAN caller from Kansas. “I am so disappointed. I have taken my Christmas tree down. I have taken my Christmas wreath off my house. I have taken all the lights off my house,” she said, angry that the health debate had caused a rift between her and her son. “They absolutely have ruined Christmas!”