Health care is reformed after 50 years of deadlock
U.S. President Barack Obama now has his first, historic political achievement to begin his legacy; he is the first Democrat to achieve the dream of health coverage for nearly all Americans.
But such was the bitterness generated by the intense battle over health care reform bill, that the impact on the political future of Obama and his Democratic allies is unclear.
Obama already had a unique place in American history by becoming the first black president, and now his victory in health reform, the largest social initiative in the past 50 years, has crowned a century-long struggle for the Democrats.
His supporters say Obama is the biggest reformer since Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969), who helped to create health coverage for poor and elderly, and pushed through major civil rights legislation.
Sunday's victory gave air to a presidency that began with stratospheric expectations and recently looked confused and troubled. It allows Obama to argue that he kept his campaign promise of "change."
"This is how you see the change," Obama said shortly after the vote. "Tonight we answered the call of history."
President Obama's signature on the bill, making it law.
©2010 The White House
Some liberals argue, however, that reform is not deep enough, and some conservatives consider it an initiative that will eliminate jobs and allow the government to take over much of the economy.
No one, however, calls it inconsequential.
"I think we will remember this vote as something historic," said Dan Shea, professor of political science at Allegheny College, Pennsylvania.
"It will change the relationship between citizens and government, and government's role in medicine," he said of the bill, which will expand health coverage to 32 million additional Americans.
Some believe that this law will be the high point of Obama's presidency.
"Regardless of any major event, I think this is probably the most important moment of his first term, including his presidency," said Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at Fordham University.
Obama came to power with promises of broad political and social reforms, but was stopped short by Republican opposition and a fall in public opinion polls.
This political victory will only increase his authority in Washington. But some observers believe that in addition, there will be a price to pay.
The fight for health reform has left America more polarized than when Obama took office on 20 January 2009.
The White House argues that once the furor generated by the discussion passes, Americans will accept health reform.
But Republicans hope not. They aim to eliminate Democratic majorities in the legislative elections next November.
"This vote and the approval of this bill is not the end of the debate on health reform," said Panagopoulos. "It will be the main topic of the 2010 legislation."
Marco Rubio, Republican candidate for Senate in Florida, said the vote just completed the reform is "all things that Americans hate our political system."
But the same could be said by some of Obama's staunchest supports, as the bill is not as broad as they wanted, and therefore might encourage Democratic voters to participate in November.
© 2010 OhmyNews