Sunday, November 08, 2009

The House Passes The Affordable Health Care For America Act!!!!!

I'm pleased but amazed that the House passed their health care reform bill.  I was beginning to think that Congress would not enact health care reform and we still lack a Senate bill and reconcilliation between the House and the Senate.  So there may still be a long way to go and we don't know what the final reform will include if Congress passes it.  I expected the House vote to be more strongly in favor of passage but it was close, passing with only a 2 vote margin.

The following is the content of an e-mail from my US Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT), which is his view of the process leading up to the passage.

Dear Friends,

Decades from now, I think I will look back on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 as one of the most important days I spent in public service. That is the day the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, marking an historic step in the hundred year fight to bring health care coverage to all American citizens. The bill will extend health coverage to millions of Americans, end the practice of pre-existing condition discrimination by insurers, lower health insurance costs for small businesses, and eliminate the Medicare drug donut hole for seniors. It’s a good bill, and Saturday was quite a day.

I thought you might enjoy a short behind-the-scenes look at a few of the more interesting moments over the last 24 hours.

Helping a New Congressman Get Started

On Election Day, New York’s 23rd District elected Bill Owens as their new Congressman. Bill ran as a pro-health care reform candidate in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the Civil War, so he was preparing to cast one of his first votes for the health reform bill. One of my responsibilities here is to help oversee freshmen legislators as they navigate their way through Congress, so I started Saturday with a 9am meeting with Owens. For a guy who hasn’t slept in three weeks, Bill seemed remarkably chipper! We spent a little time walking him through the schedule of votes for the day so he wouldn’t be caught off guard by any of the amendments. He seems like a really sharp guy, and even has a nice Connecticut connection – his son is in his first year at UConn Law!

One Last Push for Votes

I firmly decided to support the bill this week, but as of Saturday, it was still unclear whether we had the votes to pass the bill. I offered my help to persuade the few remaining undecided Members, and I found that one of my close friends was on the list. At about 10 a.m. the first round of votes were called (on non-health care related bills), and I found him in the cloakroom off the House floor. He was forlorn. In his gut, he said, he wanted to vote for the bill, but he worried his constituents would not support a "yes" vote. This is always the toughest position for a legislator. I made the case for the bill, but I could tell his mind was made up. My constituents are in a different place than his, and so he needed to go his own way.

President Obama and Fox News

President Obama was scheduled to speak to the Democratic Caucus at 11am, which was timed well for me since I committed to do an interview on Fox News at noon. But President Obama was late, and he didn’t start speaking until 11:45am. Even worse, the producers at Fox News couldn’t get their act together, and every two minutes, they would e-mail to change the location for the interview. Finally, they agreed to do the interview right outside the Caucus room at 12:15pm. Unfortunately, President Obama was just hitting the high point of his speech when I had to run out. I thought to myself as I snuck out the back door, "What would President Obama think if he knew I was walking out on him to do an interview with Fox News!" Luckily, the interview went off without a hitch – a good conversation, and I know people were watching because they immediately called the office to let me know their thoughts on the bill.

My Speech on the Floor

I hate when this happens! When you speak on the House floor, especially on major bills like this one, the Chairmen of the relevant Committees divide up the debate time between people who want to speak. Friday night I was told I would have two minutes to speak, so I wrote a two minute speech. But as I was sitting on the floor, a few moments away from speaking, and an aide approached me to tell me that they were running short on time, and I needed to cut my remarks down to one minute. Argh! I furiously scratched out half of the paragraphs of my speech and hoped that what remained flowed. I scurried down to the well of the House at around 3pm and got my speech in just under the minute mark. I immediately got a text message from a friend: "Fabulous!" Whew.

The Vote

I spoke early in the debate, so I went back to my office to get some work done in the late afternoon. But as the debate continued, I felt like I had to be on the floor, to witness history in person. As the vote neared, more Members came to the floor, and by 10:30 p.m., when the votes were to begin on amendments and the bill, the chamber was jammed with 435 Members and seemingly just as many staff and guests in the gallery.

As the final vote approached, around 11 p.m., the atmosphere was simply electric. The word was out that we likely had the votes to pass the bill, but no one was celebrating yet. As the clock began, people didn’t waste time casting their vote, and quickly we were up to 214 in favor, four short of passage. But strangely, the total stalled here. Aides were rushing around with the list of missing votes, and it turned out the people that hadn’t voted were in favor of the bill. Where were they? With about five minutes left in the vote, we hit 217, and as the deciding vote was cast, the place erupted in sustained applause. Three more people, including one Republican, made it a 220-215 final.

As I write this final paragraph, the hour is nearing 12:30 a.m. This was a truly amazing day. The legislation certainly isn’t perfect, but it will extend health insurance to millions more Americans, lower costs for small businesses, and decrease the deficit. I was proud to vote for it, and play a role in its passage.

Now, just for that small matter of the Senate…

Every best wish,

Christopher S. Murphy

1 comment:

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Wow! Now, hopefully it won't die in the senate.