News / USA

    Obama's Historic Health Care Bill Also A Political Gamble

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, 21 Mar 2010
    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, 21 Mar 2010

    President Barack Obama won a major political victory this week with congressional passage of his health care reform plan.  Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats made history with the reform legislation, but politically the bill is a major gamble and opposition Republicans have vowed to exact revenge in congressional midterm elections this November.

    Unlike many of his predecessors, President Obama scored a political success on health care.  But it remains to be seen whether it is a political blessing or a curse.

    Many political experts do see passage of the health care reform bill as historic, including Ross Baker of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

    "This is something, after all, that first came to the attention of the American public 100 years ago when a national health insurance program was proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt, and successive presidents, mostly Democrats but not all, have favored it," said Ross Baker.

    The Obama plan approved by Congress will eventually extend health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans who were previously uninsured.  The plan will cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years and will be paid for through a combination of tax increases and projected savings in health care spending.  The bill will also curtail the ability of health insurance companies to limit or end coverage.

    Mr. Obama was elected president in 2008 on a promise of change and quickly made health care his top domestic priority.  After a battle in Congress that lasted more than one year, the president and his Democratic allies in Congress finally prevailed.

    "We did not avoid our responsibility, we embraced it," said President Obama. "We did not fear our future, we shaped it."

    Political analyst and author Richard Wolffe says there is little doubt that the scope of the Obama health care plan makes it historic.

    "The underlying legislation is far-reaching and is sweeping," said  Richard Wolffe. "It may not be everything everyone hoped for, but it does have an impact on this huge and growing part of the American economy, as well as being part of the Democratic [Party] dream for so many generations."

    Even though the health care bill is historic, it is also a huge political gamble.  Public opinion polls show more Americans oppose the Obama plan than support it, and the president was unable to win a single Republican vote in Congress.

    Republicans like Indiana Congressman Mike Pence believe that the president and his Democratic allies in Congress simply defied the will of the American people and will now pay a steep price in the congressional midterm elections in November.

    "This is not the president's House," said Mike Pence. "This is not the Democrat's House.  This is the people's House, and the American people don't want a government takeover of health care!"

    The health care debate also fueled the rise of the so-called Tea Party movement, loosely organized groups of grass roots conservative, Libertarian and anti-tax activists who opposed the health care plan as too much government involvement in the economy.

    Conservatives may have lost the battle in Congress, but they have vowed to defeat Democrats who supported the bill in the November elections.

    Tom DeFrank is a veteran political observer with the New York Daily News and a regular guest on VOA's Issues in the News program.

    "I think the Republicans are doing what they are doing because they believe it works to their political advantage, and it is certainly clear for about the last six to nine months that it has worked," said Tom DeFrank.

    The divisive health care debate has left a bitter aftertaste with lawmakers from both parties, and experts including Richard Wolffe see little hope for the kind of bipartisanship that President Obama talked about when he first came into office.

    "Yes, another part of his ambition was to change the tone and the politics and the way politics is done in this town, and that has been a singular failure," he said. "They were not expecting the kind of permanent campaign that Republicans ran, which was, frankly, a little bit naïve, and that has frustrated his efforts to be a bipartisan leader, which was really his goal."

    Most experts believe that the partisan nature of the health care debate makes it less likely that Congress will make progress this year on other important issues like immigration reform and climate change.  


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora