Health reform vote answered call of history : Obama

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    US President Barack Obama said Sunday that Americans had answered the call of history, after Congress sent him a sweeping health reform bill he said answered the prayers of the uninsured.

    “This is what change looks like,” Obama said, in late-night remarks in the East Room of the White House, soon after the House of Representatives voted to pass his health care plan after months of cliffhanger politics. A tired, but triumphant Obama said that despite the predictions of pundits that it was not possible to pass the mammoth bill, Americans had risen above their differences, though the measure passed without a single Republican vote.

    “Tonight we answered the call of history as so many Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge, we overcame it,” Obama said. “We did not avoid our responsibility we embraced it. We did not fear our future, we shaped it,” Obama said, with Vice President Joe Biden by his side. “Today’s vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people,” Obama said.

    “It’s a victory for the American people and it’s a victory for common sense,” Obama said. Obama watched the House of Representatives vote on a bill that brings America closer than ever before to universal health coverage, with aides in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, his spokesman Robert Gibbs said. When the magic number of 216 votes needed to pass the bill was reached, he gave his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel a palm slapping high-five, and hugged other aides, at a moment of triumph after a trying political year.

    But as he prepares to sell the legislation to the American public in the run-up to mid-term congressional elections in November, Obama warned that the bill was not a panacea. “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction,” Obama said in his televised remarks. “This is not radical reform, but it is major reform,” Obama said, saying the vote was another stone “firmly laid in the foundation of the American dream.”

    The Democratic-held House of Representatives earlier voted 219-212 to approve a Senate-passed bill aimed at extending coverage of tens of millions of Americans who currently lack it in the most sweeping social policy shift in four decades. Obama, who made the overhaul his top domestic priority, was to sign the legislation this week, even as his Republican foes warned Democrats would pay a steep political price in November mid-term elections.

    Together, the Senate bill and package of changes would remake US health care a century after then-president Teddy Roosevelt called for a national approach, extending coverage to some 32 million Americans who currently lack it.

    Washington, March 21, 2010 (AFP)