President Obama declared victory in the signature initiative of his presidency late Sunday night in the East Room of the White House.
For the first-term president who has struggled through the past few months, it was a campaign promise redeemed, as Obama proclaimed that "this is what change looks like."
With health care's passage, Obama has acted on the number-one issue for his supporters in the 2008 election that put him in office. CNN exit polling showed health care beating the economy 73% to 53% as a top concern for Obama voters. And it gives an undeniable boost to the president and his party.
"We march on with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their [American families'] behalf," Obama said.
Just before midnight, Obama took the podium with Vice President Biden standing behind him and thanked Speaker Pelosi, the vice president, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and his staff. The president noted that reform is not yet done: while Obama has a bill that he can now sign, the Senate has pledged to take up the House's package of reconciliation fixes before Obama can roll out the comprehensive plan that he pushed for in the past weeks.
Here's how Obama characterized Sunday night's vote. From the end of his remarks:
[S]o this isn't radical. 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, it's 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 that's not the case. It's 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 families' dreams back in 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 found 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, we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility, we embraced it. We did not fear our future, we shaped it. Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America.
A reporter shouted after Obama, as he walked back into a corridor from the podium, "When will you sign it Mr. President? When will you sign it?"
The president gave no answer.
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