“People had an appreciation it was a crossing of the Rubicon,” recounted U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Monday in the aftermath of Sunday’s historic votes by the U.S. House of Representatives on health care reform.
Just to be clear, crossing the Rubicon (a river in Italy that Caesar waded across with his army enroute to Rome) means, according to Webster’s, “to commit oneself to a definite act or decision, take a final, irrevocable step.”
It was a tense day, Welch said, because people — even politicians who regardless of party talk a lot about the need to make change — are apprehensive when it comes to actually doing it.
There was plenty of uncertainty about the vote count, too, Welch noted. “It wasn’t clear what the outcome would be until midday.”
Perhaps there shouldn’t have been any doubt about the vote since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised several weeks ago that she would deliver health care reform one way or another.
“We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed,“ Pelosi said Jan. 28.
Welch took to the House floor Sunday afternoon to tell his colleagues that the choice in the upcoming vote was “simple.”
“Will Congress today choose on behalf of the American people who elected us to build a health care system where every American has access to health care and where every American shares in the responsibility of paying for it?” he posed. “Will we today free ourselves from the shackles of the broken status quo?”
After the vote, Welch said the mood changed — at least for the 219 who won. “People felt quite relieved and positive.”
Welch said President Barack Obama set the stage for the vote with the pep talk he gave the Democratic caucus about those moments in life when a decision makes a difference. “He was appealing to members of Congress and the American people to have the courage to take on the challenge of making the health care system work for everybody.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Welch described the phone calls and e-mail his office has received Monday as positive. He, no doubt, has colleagues whose constituents aren’t happy.
Welch highlighted the benefits of health care legislation: it reforms health insurance, strengthens Medicare, ensures 96 percent of Americans will have health coverage and promises significant deficit reduction. Check out more details at Welch’s Web site
Its shortcomings, he said, include no public health insurance option, no mandated price negotiations on prescription drugs and no antitrust provisions. For those changes, he promised, “We will fight another day.”
- Nancy Remsen
Labels: health care reform, Rep. Peter Welch