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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Health Care Showdown
Aired March 21, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: The motion -- the motion -- the motion is really -- the motion is really a last-ditch effort of 98 years of denying Americans health care. The motion to recommit does not promote life. It is the Democrats who have stood up -- it is the Democrats who have stood up --
REP. DAVID OBEY (D), WISCONSIN: Suspend. Those who are shouting out are out of order.
STUPAK: Mr. Speaker --
STUPAK: Mr. Speaker, this motion does not promote life. It is the Democrats who have stood up for the principle of no public funding for abortions. It is Democrats, through the president's executive order that ensures the sanctity of life is protected, because all life is precious and all life should be honored.
Democrats guarantee all life from the unborn to the last breath of a senior citizen is honored and respected.
For the unborn child, his or her mother will finally have free and post-natal care under our bill. If the child --
STUPAK: If the child is born with medical problems, we provide medical care without bankrupting the family.
For the Republicans now claim that we send the bill back to committee under this guise of protecting life is disingenuous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm claiming my time.
STUPAK: This motion is really to politicize life, not prioritize life. We stand for the American people. We stand up for life. Vote no on this motion to recommit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the gentleman for --
STUPAK: And I yield back to the gentleman.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBEY: Order. Order. REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: My colleagues, my colleagues, we have come this far not -- not to be thwarted by a procedural motion that will never have effect. They know that, we know that. Vote no. Vote yes for the health care of all America, and I yield back the balance of my time.
OBEY: Without objection, the previous question is ordered on the motion to recommit. The questions on the motion, those in favor say aye.
OBEY: Those opposed, no.
OBEY: The no's have it. The motion is not agreed --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I ask for a recorded vote.
OBEY: The gentleman asked for a recorded vote. Those favoring a recorded vote will rise. A sufficient number having risen, a recorded vote is ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device.
This is a 15-minute vote.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Fifteen minutes from now, the roll call on this motion to recommit, as it's called, will be over with. That will be 11:18 p.m. Eastern. Right now it's about 11:03 p.m. Eastern.
We're watching this 15 minutes very, very closely. And I want to be very precise and I want our viewers to understand what this vote is all about.
Dana Bash is our senior congressional correspondent.
The Republicans have introduced a motion to recommit. If it passes, if it gets 216 yay votes, Dana, then what happens? Because the Democrats are trying to prevent, in this particular vote, 216 yes votes.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What would happen if this would have passed -- or if this would pass is that the health care bill would -- one of two things, either go back to committee, which effectively kills the bill, or at least delays the bill, or it could actually kill it.
It depends. I'm not sure exactly how this particular motion is written, but regardless, it stops things, stops everything in its tracks. And so the goal of the minority party, when they put up a motion to recommit, is to put something up that is difficult for the majority party -- Democrats -- to vote against. Well, this is exactly -- Wolf, you and I were talking about this on the air earlier. Exactly what Democrats feared. And the reason why they cut a deal with Bart Stupak. And -- that they feared that the Republicans would put up Bart Stupak's language and he would have no alternative and he would actually vote for it and many, many other anti-abortion Democrats would vote for this and it would actually pass.
But you heard in that really, really dramatic moment there, Stupak stand up and say, I am going to vote against, effectively, my own language, his own language, specifically, which really is more restrictive when it comes to preventing federal funding for abortion.
He said he's going to do it, and the reason why Democrats got him to do that is because they cut this deal with an executive order from the president and a colloquy on the floor earlier.
If that didn't happen, there was a very good chance that this motion to recommit could have actually passed and the whole health care bill could have been completely gummed up.
BLITZER: That's why the Democrats will need 216 no votes to make sure that this motion to recommit, as it's called, does not pass.
So take a look, right now they have 194 no votes, 163 yes votes. The magic number, once again, is 216. But this time they need -- Democrats need that 216 on the no side as opposed to the yes side.
We assume the Democrats will get that because, as Dana points out, if they don't get 216 no votes this time, the motion is passed, it will then go back to the committee, effectively killing this historic moment now. So there is drama. Two hundred no votes right now.
Brianna Keilar, our other congressional correspondent, is on the phone, outside the gallery.
Where exactly, Brianna, are you?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Wolf, I'm actually standing so that I can see on to the House floor from the print gallery, but I have to tell you about this really sort of controversial moment that just happened.
It sort of evoked a feeling, at least among the press corps, of that Joe Wilson moment, when he yelled "you lie" at President Obama. What we heard, and we're trying to figure out exactly which lawmaker said this, but from the Republican side, as Congressman Stupak was finishing up his comments, someone yelled "baby killer" at him.
That came from the Republican side, and then you could hear a collective groan from Democrats, and then someone shouted out from the Democrat side, "Who said that?" So certainly a breach of decorum here, and everyone, you know, among the press, is buzzing about this and they're trying to figure out who was that member of Congress who said it, Wolf.
We're -- we have an idea of who it might be, but of course, we want to double check and make sure before we go ahead and name names.
BLITZER: And I know we're reviewing the tape right now to see who was that Republican -- presumably a Republican -- who shouted out "baby killer" as Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat who was making the case to kill this motion to recommit.
Two hundred and 14 no votes right now. Remember, 216 is the magic number. If they get to 216 no votes, the motion to recommit fails. They will then go on to vote for the reconciliation bill, which will then pass and go to the Senate for consideration in the days to come.
Two hundred and 15 no votes right now. One more no vote and then this motion to recommit fails. There it is right now. So this motion to recommit, this last-ditch effort by the Republicans to try to set back health care reform, after having passed the House -- 219-212 -- they now failed to get this motion to recommit.
Two hundred and 17 no votes right now.
John King, they have failed to get this done, but as Brianna says, someone shouting out "baby killer" at Bart Stupak. That is, in fact, something along the lines of when Joe Wilson, the Republican congressman from South Carolina, shouted out "you lie" at the president.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is late in the evening after a long debate today and a very testy debate that has gone on for months. The emotions, Wolf, on this overall bill are quite sharp and in some cases harsh.
And when it comes to this particular issue of abortion, always one of the most divisive, emotional, tough issues in the country. Just a few days ago, Bart Stupak, that anti-abortion Democrat from Michigan who stood up to oppose this motion -- he was the conservative anti- abortion movement's hero. Just a few days ago.
Because he was holding out, saying, I would not vote for this bill unless you change things. He got a compromise from the president. Doesn't go as far as he would like either, but it went far enough to get him and a group, a dozen or so of anti-abortion Democrats who were standing with him.
Once they announced that, that made it clear to the Republicans that the speaker had the votes and the anti-abortion Republicans who just 24 hours ago were saying, you know, thank God for Bart Stupak, turned. Because that was it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And this is about 2010, this vote. This is about getting people on the record to look like flip-floppers. People who were with Bart Stupak, initially, who were anti-abortion. Now voting this way will be portrayed -- I am sure -- in their reelection campaigns as people who have flip-flopped on the issue of abortion.
And, you know, that's a very difficult thing for any politician to defend, is why I voted one way one time and another way the other time. And that's -- you know, that's what this is about. This is about getting them on the record. This is about playing hardball we lost, but we're going to make you vote for this.
BLITZER: But this is a -- and John King is absolutely right. It does underscore the raw sensitivities, the nerves that are out there, the anger on the part of some of these lawmakers. It's what's going on.
Roland Martin, our political contributor, is helping us better appreciate what's going on.
"Baby killer," someone shouted, Roland, at Bart Stupak, one of the most fiercely anti-abortion Democrats in the House of Representatives.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Obviously grossly offensive to Congressman Stupak. But, you know, I understand the point that Gloria made in terms of getting folks on the record. But, also, you have Democrats who are saying, wait a minute, are you pro-life for those folks in the womb, but what about folks out of the womb?
And you looked at earlier Congressman Dingell said some 18,000 people die every year as a result of the lack of health care. Do their lives matter? Because of health disparities in Chicago, some 3200 African- Americans die every single year because of health disparities, just in this particular city.
Do those lives matter? And so I think, you know, look, clearly on the abortion issue, you have this debate going back and forth, of this whole notion of how do you protect those in the womb, but Democrats also can make the argument that they also are trying to protect those folks who are actually living.
And so, again, it's the balance of the question, the pro-lifers, do you care only about those in the womb? What about those who are out of the womb?
BLITZER: Still seven minutes to go on this motion to recommit, this vote, but 225 members have already voted nay. They have killed, effectively, this motion to recommit and now the final vote of the night will be on the reconciliation bill itself, which will pass, and will then go to the Senate for consideration.
There'll be a fierce fight in the Senate, as we all know and anticipate. But health care reform will now go to the president for his signature and will be signed into law.
David Gergen, I want you to weigh in on this someone shouting out "baby killer" at Democratic congressman, Bart Stupak.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you know, John King is right, obviously, emotions are very high after a long day. But still, the Republicans have this problem. You know, here in the last few weeks, John Boehner has grown in stature, and they've done a good job in this health care debate over time of showcasing some of these other members, like Cantor, and Ryan and Pence today have been very effective a couple of times. And I think that, you know, they have begun to develop some voices. No longer does Rush Limbaugh, in effect, speak for Republicans or these other interesting voices that are coming out, which I think has been a lot of progress for Republicans.
And then they have something like this. Just as we had some protesters on the streets yesterday yelling epithet at black Democratic congressmen, and you get these sort of crazies who pop up and Republicans have a real opportunity now to seize part of the debate and perhaps win back major seats in the House and Senate.
But to get there, they're going to have to bring these kind of people under control. This turns off American voters. They don't like to hear that kind of stuff. It's just out of bounds, and yes, you're tired, but still, get this under control.
BLITZER: Yes, but it's one thing, David, to hear that kind of shout, that kind of slur, epithet coming from a crowd outside and who knows who these people are. It's another thing to hear someone shout "baby killer" from a group of congressmen, lawmakers.
GERGEN: I agree with that, Wolf, and it's a good point. But we all will remember back on some of the rallies that were held late in the 2008 campaign -- Sarah Palin rallies, you know, where some real things -- some very ugly things were being yelled out.
Not being brought under control. Eventually, John McCain stepped in and got that stuff stopped. And in the same way, I think Republicans now with this opportunity, they have really joined the debate now, with Barack Obama and the Democrats. They've got some really forceful, interesting speakers out there.
It does seem to me it's in their interest to figure out how to bring -- and in the country's interest, by the way, to get rid of this kind of language.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, they got four minutes plus to go in this actual roll call. We'll take a quick break.
Remember, there's one more important vote on the so-called reconciliation bill, the fix-it bill, as it's called. We'll watch that roll call. We'll see what happens on this front, although there's little doubt what will happen. The Democrats will win once again, send that reconciliation bill to the Senate for consideration.
After all of this, the president of the United States will go into the east room of the White House. He'll address later tonight the American people. We'll have live coverage of all of this, so don't go away. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Only a few seconds left for this voting on this so-called motion to recommit that effectively could have killed passage of health care reform in the House of Representatives. You see there are more than enough Democrats, 232 nay votes. That means the motion has failed, it has not passed. This sets the stage for the final vote of the day in the House of Representatives. A vote on the reconciliation bill.
The changes in the just-passed health care reform bill that the Democrats want, once this reconciliation vote starts, there will be 15 minutes of voting time for that, and then the Democrats need 216 votes, once again, to pass it, which they will get.
That will end the business of the House of Representatives for the day. But our business will not be over with, because once the House recesses, the president of the United States will then walk into the east room of the White House and make a presentation. The president will speak.
You're watching David Obey. He's in the speaker's chair right now. He's the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Let's listen in to him.
OBEY: Questions on passage of the bill. Those if favor say aye.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: Aye!
OBEY: Those no.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS: No!
OBEY: For what purpose --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recorded vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker, on that I demand a record vote.
OBEY: The chair is getting ahead of himself.
The opinion of the chair, the ayes have it. For what purpose does the distinguished dean of the house and the lifetime (INAUDIBLE) of health care reform arise.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: I thank my dear --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DINGELL: I thank my dear friend, the Speaker, and on that, I ask for a recorded vote.
OBEY: A recorded vote is requested. Those in favor in the recorded vote will rise. A sufficient number having risen, a recorded vote is ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device.
Pursuant to Clause 8 of Rule 20 this is a 15-minute vote on passage of the bill. It will be followed by five-minute votes on motions to suspend the rule with regard to House Resolution 1099 and House Resolution 1119. BLITZER: All right. So that's it. So now they're in the 15-minute window for actual voting on passage of the reconciliation bill. This is the final vote on health care reform of the day in the House of Representatives.
This is the fix-it bill. These are the changes to the just-approved Senate health care bill that the Democrats wanted.
They will pass this, look at the key number of yeas. They'll need 216 to pass this reconciliation bill. They will get it. They got 219 for the passage of the Senate bill. So they'll get 216 plus on passage of this reconciliation bill.
It will then go to the Senate for consideration. The president of the United States, as we've been pointing out, will then speak -- will speak tonight to the American people on what has happened. He'll go to the east room. We'll have live coverage of the president as well.
So they're now in this vote on reconciliation and I want to be clear with our viewers, John, because once this passes the House and goes to the Senate, they will need 50 senators and Joe Biden, if necessary, or 51 senators, to pass it.
They won't be -- they won't have to worry about the 60-vote majority, the super majority to beat a filibuster.
KING: We've spent a lot of time in recent weeks and months talking about that 60-vote super majority and how the Democrats lost it when Scott Brown, the Republican, won the Massachusetts special election. Now the Democrats have 59, if you count the two independents who side with them.
But under the Rules of Reconciliation, which is a Senate process -- the word is a bit of an oxymoron, of course -- reconciliation is not what's happening here politically. This is a partisan war. But under the Rules of Reconciliation, a simple majority in the Senate. The rules prohibit a filibuster here.
It is meant to get budget legislation through and the Republicans in the Senate, there's no guarantee this will be a quick process or a smooth process. The Democrats say they have the votes so that they will get to the finish line, but the Senate rules do allow the Republicans to try -- number one, the first thing they will try to do is say there are some things in that reconciliation bill that are not allowed.
They will challenge the appropriateness of some of those provisions. So the Senate parliamentarian will decide. If the Senate parliamentarian agreed with the Republicans, the vice president, who is the president of the Senate, Joe Biden, he could overrule the parliamentarian.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. As of now, the House passes this bill, once they get to 216, and they're getting close. Then it goes to the Senate. That debate will take a bit. A couple of days, maybe a week or more. BLITZER: They have 20 hours that they've scheduled.
BLITZER: The Democrats could waive their 10 hours if they wanted.
KING: Right. They could. We'll see how that plays out. We saw a two-hour debate in the House turned into much more than that today. I suspect the Senate will turn in a bit more than that because of the vehicles available to Republicans to try to stretch it out a bit.
But the Democratic leadership insists that it has a clear majority, not just 50 or 51, but a clear majority to move this forward. But the Senate bill is now the law of the land.
BLITZER: Once the president signs it.
KING: Right. Once the president signs it. This is a question of whether they will make some changes to make it more palatable to House Democrats. But health care reform is heading to the president's desk. The only question now is, will it be tweaked a bit?
BLITZER: You know, I love -- I tried to point out 192 yes votes for this reconciliation bill, 184, no. The magic number is 216. As we watch this roll call, 193, John, you started a brand-new program, "JOHN KING, USA" tomorrow night.
You're going to have something to talk about.
KING: I' will have a lot to talk about. This is a fascinating and very significant policy vote, and we should focus on what it does for the American people, what it does to the insurance system, what it does for government reach and power in Washington. Because the Republicans are right when they say it does increase the role of the government.
There's a debate about whether government takeover is right or not. And here's one snapshot, something we'll cover tomorrow on the program. Senator Scott Brown, who changed everything and gave Republicans, for a brief window of time, the hope that they might be able to stop this bill completely.
He said tonight today's vote shows that leaders in Washington continue to ignore the will of the people. That is Scott Brown's take.
Vicki Kennedy. Vicki Reggie Kennedy, the wife of the late Senator Kennedy, the seat that Scott Brown won, said that this was a landmark vote tonight and she concluded her statement by saying, Ted knew we would get here and all of us who loved him and shared his hopes for America are deeply grateful.
You mentioned the program tomorrow night. Vicki Reggie Kennedy will be our exclusive guest on the launch of "JK, USA" tomorrow night and we'll talk to her about her involvement in this debate and what it means to her, of course, as the widow of the late Senator Kennedy, who spent most of his career fighting for this issue. BLITZER: Yes. Well, that will be an excellent guest to kick off the new show tomorrow night. 205 yes votes, 216 is the magic number to pass this reconciliation bill. Just gone up to 206 votes.
They're going to pass this and then they've got some other little business they're going to have to do, Gloria, but it's going to go to the Senate and the Senate will take its time.
BORGER: That's right.
BLITZER: They'll consider it, but they have the votes.
BORGER: And I think we see the themes emerging. Just what Scott Brown was saying, the e-mails are now starting to come in from Republicans and Senator Mitch McConnell, who's the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, called the vote an unseemly power grab and said that Americans are tired of being treated more like obstacles to be overcome, than constituents to be respected and heard.
And Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party, sent out an immediate fundraising letter tonight, saying that if we gain just 40 House seats, we can fire Nancy Pelosi.
BLITZER: 206 they've got so far on this reconciliation.
Ed Henry is over at the White House, in the West Wing of the White House, in our booth over there.
Ed, walk us through what the president is about to do. He's going to go into the east room, is there an audience there? Will we just look into a camera, read from a teleprompter? What do we know?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's going to be very brief remarks, I'm told. The president is going to probably be alone. Not a big audience, just the media, a small group of reporters still here late in the evening.
He's going to have a telepromper and he's going to go through some remarks and I'm told by some of his senior advisers that he's going to be very blunt about casting this as an historic achievement. Is going to say basically that the Democrats delivered here. He's not going to be shy about saying that.
And he's also going to use that "change" word from the campaign, I'm told. He's going to basically say that this is what change looks like and he's going to lay out -- he's be obviously facing some criticism in recent weeks and months that maybe he hasn't moved quickly on delivering some of this change.
He's going to be bold about saying, this is change.
Now I'm also told and have been told for some time, this is not going to be some large pep rally, as you suggested. It's going to be a small group. And part of that is because they still have to get the second piece of legislation, the reconciliation you've been talking about, through the Senate, as you noted. Now you've also noted the first bill, which is the original Senate bill, that's already passed. That could be signed into law by the president. I'm told it's not going to be signed tonight, but one of his top aides told me it will be signed by Tuesday, Wolf.
BLITZER: By Tuesday. All right. Well, they've got some time to take a look at it. They've got to do some formal -- a clerk has to approve it and send it, and so I guess there's some bureaucratic stuff they have to do on that.
212 yay votes right now on the reconciliation bill. They need four more to bring it to 216 and that reconciliation bill will pass the House of Representatives and be sent to the Senate for consideration.
It should happen fairly soon, 212. They're moving along. How much time, let me take a look, is left? About seven minutes or so left in this roll call that's been going on. So they're moving on and on.
Let's bring in Sanjay Gupta to give us a little perspective on what has been achieved for the Democrats on this day.
Sanjay, it's a big moment. It's a big moment, not just for the Democrats or for the president, but for all those who have been so anxious to see health care reform.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I -- you know, I certainly approach this more from a medical standpoint, looking at, you know, how the health care professionals and health care institutions will respond to this. As we talked about earlier, Wolf, it's hard to paint that with one big, broad brush, because, obviously, different sections have different views on this.
But I think it's safe to say that most docs and health care professionals wanted to see some sort of increase in access to health care. And that's going to be achieved as a result of what's happening right now.
Not right away, as we've talked about, but over the next several years. But still, there is a, you know, this issue of costs that Kevin brought up earlier. It's interesting because you know no one controls costs well. Republicans don't do it well, Democrats don't do it well. They don't do it well in Europe. They don't do it well in Canada.
Cost is a very difficult issue to control. And projecting costs, as well, into the future, is almost impossible. So still dealing with limited information on what ends up being still one of the most vexing issues of this whole discussion.
BLITZER: I want Kevin Madden to weigh in.
Kevin, we heard Brianna Keilar report that one member, presumably a Republican, shouted out the words "baby killer" to Democratic congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan, who is one of the most ardent anti-abortion Democrats out there, at the last hour of this debate, basically reached an agreement with the other Democrats and the president for this executive order, that allowed him and his colleagues to go ahead and vote in favor of this health care reform.
But give me your perspective. One guy shouts out something ugly like that, and it's going to cause a lot of heartburn out there.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. And I think John's point was the most important one, which is right now emotions are very raw. This has been a long year and a half debate that we have had. People have calcified opinions one way or the other on it.
And then I think you enter into that at the last minute abortion and you really have very hyper-charged emotions. But I think it makes -- we make a mistake by assigning the emotions or the emotions or the lack of decorum by -- of one member in a room which we all saw tonight must have had at least 700 people in it to one party, and prescribing those -- that lack of decorum to an entire party.
And so I think that's a mistake, but I also think that's sometimes emblematic of what we're going through right now. It's kind of the freak show side of --
BLITZER: All right, I'm going to interrupt for a moment because 217 yes votes on the reconciliation bill right now. It has passed the House of Representatives. It will be sent to the Senate. There are still four minutes plus remaining in the roll call, but they have the 216. So this reconciliation bill passes as well.
Go ahead, Kevin.
MADDEN: Well, I just think it's emblematic of the freak show, which is, you know, we remember what happened when Joe Wilson shouted out "you lie," for two weeks, you know, the memory and the words of a congressional address by a president of the United States was almost forgotten.
And I think that we have to remember that I disagree with the actions that the Congress took tonight, but this was an historic moment and we ought not to, you know, focus on one little incident like that in a room full of 700 people.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is offensive, and tone matters, and during emotional debates, as we've seen over the last couple of days.
Look, when I heard yesterday, Wolf, that John Lewis was called the N word, for people like myself who grew up in the deep south, you know, we're like, stop it, get over it. This is about health care.
There's no reason why certain lawmakers should be talking about -- whether it's Bart Stupak or John Lewis or Barney Frank, these guys are voting their conscience -- and women as well. They should not be subjected to this kind of harassment and humiliation.
BLITZER: All right. There's still a few minutes left on this roll call. But let's take a quick break. Well, we're waiting for the president of the United States. He's getting ready to speak to the nation. We'll go to the White House and our coverage will resume after this.
BLITZER: All right. There's only a few seconds left on this vote, on the reconciliation fix-it bill, as it's called. But 219 Democrats have now voted in favor. That means it will pass.
David Obey will make the announcement, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Maybe Nancy Pelosi will. Let's see who's up in the gavel doing all of this. We'll watch what's going on.
But the House, for all practical purposes, as far as health care is concerned, is wrapping up its business. It's been a long day. They gaveled into session at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Now it's, what, 11:35 p.m. Eastern. Getting closer to midnight and it's been a long day for them. It's been a long day for all of us, but it's also been a very historic day.
I want to remind you that we're waiting for the president of the United States. He'll be speaking, we're told, in about 15 minutes or so. He'll be going into the east room of the White House and make a statement on what has happened.
And then he'll get ready to make sure this so-called reconciliation bill passes Senate. Once it does, the new package will be complete. The changes from the Senate version, all of those -- at least some of those controversial payoffs, if you will, the Nebraska cornhusker kickback, for example.
That has all been removed in the reconciliation bill, although it remains in the Senate bill and once the president signed the Senate bill over the next 24 to 48 hours into law, that will be the law of the land, until the reconciliation bill passes the Senate.
If it passes the Senate without any changes from the language that has just been passed by the House of Representatives, it will then go to the president for his signature and all of that will be changed, will be go into law.
On the other hand, if the Senate were to make changes in the reconciliation bill, then that would have to go back to the House.
Here's Nancy Pelosi.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: -- 211, the bill is passed!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
PELOSI: Without objection, a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unfinished business is the vote on the motion --
BLITZER: All right, so they've wrapped up the health care reform legislation. All of that health care business has now been resolved. They've got a little bit of unrelated business they're going to wrap up and then they'll go into recess for this day.
Once again, we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. He's going to react to what all of us have just seen.
Ed Henry, are you over there in the East Room yet, waiting for the president?
HENRY: That's right, Wolf. We just got into the East Room. We're told it's a little less than 15 minutes so we can expect the president to come out. You can see the podium, of course, already set up. The president's going to be walking out from the Blue Room, just on the other side of the East Room here.
He's going to be coming down the dramatic carpet entrance we've seen for primetime news conferences, et cetera. Pretty quiet here tonight. Media is obviously here. There's not going to be a crowd of any kind, as other events we've seen the president make his final case.
He's had doctors, he's had people, small businesses, individuals affected by the health care situation in the country. In this case, it's just going to be the media, obviously, at this late hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting that -- I'm sure they would have loved to have done it a little bit earlier, but the president's been waiting, what, 13 months to get this passed. It's now been passed. I can only imagine how happy and excited he must be right now.
HENRY: I spoke to one of the president's top aides just a short while ago and he was in contact with the president who was still working on his remarks, et cetera. They were definitely excited about the situation, but also were pointing out that this second phase still has to go through the Senate. They realize that.
I'm told the president is going to be very direct about saying this was a history-making moment, and he's going to be direct about saying he thinks he and the Democrats have stood up here and delivered for the American people.
I would also note that we've been sort of talking for so long about how over those 13 or 14 months the president has been traveling around the country, you might think that's over now. But I've just picked up from some of the president's advisers, later this week, he's already going to start hitting the road again, barnstorming as he now.
Instead of trying to sell the Congress on passing it, he's now going to try to sell the American people on what he believes are the immediate benefits of all this, Wolf. So if you thought some of the barnstorming was over, it's really just beginning. Because now he wants to sell the benefits of that and obviously he's going to be looking ahead to those November midterm elections.
Some of those Democrat who cast tough votes here want the political cover of this president going out there and selling this, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stand by. We're waiting for the president. Ed says maybe 15 minutes, maybe a little bit less away from the president. He will walk into the Green Room -- excuse me, the East Room and make his statement.
We'll have live coverage here on CNN, so don't go away.
Dana Bash has been covering all the action in the House of Representatives now for a long time.
No rest for the weary, Dana, because starting tomorrow, we're going to have you covering the Senate. Because there's a lot of activity that's going to happen over the next few days in the Senate as well. But let's focus in on what the House has just achieved today.
BASH: Well, what the House has just achieved is something that, you know, depending on the day or the week or the month, so many people did not think was ever going to happen. And let's just focus on the month of January, the day that Scott Brown got elected to the United States Senate and took the Democrats' 60-vote majority away from them.
I cannot tell you -- really, up until a couple of days ago, how many Democrats, even Democrats, thought that the whole idea of pushing this bill through still was so, so difficult. And really what we saw is the beginning, Wolf, of Democrats thread -- successfully thread a very difficult needle.
And the needle is a process, as you said, looking ahead, will require the United States Senate, which is all the way down there behind me, to go through a process this coming week that should at the end of the day get -- finally give the entire package to the president, but it is not going to be an easy road to do that this coming week.
BLITZER: There won't be any filibuster opportunities for the Republicans in the Senate, Dana. This is a 51-vote majority.
BASH: Exactly. Yes, so -- exactly. The reconciliation process is obviously beneficial for Democrats because they could do it with the 51-vote majority. But it is very difficult because the rules of this reconciliation process are very, very limiting, Wolf.
And specifically, everything that is in this package has to have something to do, effectively, with the budget, or more specifically, with deficit reductions. So one of the things that has taken a long time -- weeks and weeks -- for this process to really move forward, is for the package to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb.
And just to give you a little bit of the lingo here, given what they called a bird bath because this is named after Robert Byrd, the senator from West Virginia, to make sure that everything in this bill will hold up to the parliamentarian, hold up against Republicans' attempts to strike this down, because they are going to try to do that all week long.
I was talking to some officials, Democratic officials, who have been involved in this process. They think that it will survive, but the reason why what seems like a rather simple process is not going to be so simple because Republicans have been studying this.
They think that they have some tactics up their sleeve to potentially take this whole process down.
BLITZER: Yes. And if there's any changes, including one word change in the Senate version of the reconciliation, it will have to go back for passage in the House of Representatives.
BLITZER: In the meantime, the Senate version has passed just now by the House, Christmas Eve by the Senate. That will be the law of the land.
We're now being told, by the way, the president is less than two minutes away from walking into the East Room to deliver his reaction to what the House of Representatives has done.
He will walk into the East Room and make his statement. A very happy White House right now. The president of the United States had worked ferociously over these past few weeks.
Right now, he was supposed to be on a plane, flying to Guam and Indonesia and Australia for a trip that he originally had postponed by a few days, but once he saw what was happening in the House of Representatives, he decided to postpone that trip even further.
He is now not going to those countries until June. By June, presumably, the reconciliation package will have passed the Senate and we'll see what happens on that front.
Just trying to be facetious a little bit.
But right now the president is going to lay out his strategy for the next few days, when he will sign this Senate version into law. He'll make his case to the American people why this is going to be good for them.
And the Democrats have been recessing that, yes, there's a lot of concern out there. They have seen the polls just as all of us have seen the polls. The concerns among, not just Republicans, but a lot of independents and many Democrats as well, what this legislation will do as far as their health care is concerned.
He will make the case not only now, but in the coming days and weeks that this is going to be good for the country, give this legislation a chance, give this new law a chance. He will be happy to see what it does in improving health care in America.
The Republicans at the same time have a very, very different perspective on all of this. John, as we wait for the president right now, and he's only a few seconds away walking in there, I guess we should realize that for him 13 months in the making.
KING: Thirteen months in the making. He now has seven months to make his case to the American people and try to change the mood of the country among the constituencies that are skeptical about this. Independent voters, some conservative Democrats out there.
That's the president's biggest challenge. For the Democrats, this is a big celebration and the president will allude to that, but his biggest challenge selling it is voters who are more skeptical about the cost, more skeptical about government reach.
And Wolf, you know, we spent a lot of time together working in that building. This is one of the advantages the president has at his disposal. The East Room of the White House is glorious stage. It's late at night, but this will be shown of course on morning newscasts and all over the country tomorrow.
That walk from the Blue Room down the red carpet, whoever is president, Democrat or Republicans. This is one of the great political weapons they have at their disposal. It is just a matter -- when you come down that hall, and you know, 8 1/2 years I spent covering in that building, you spent a long time there as well.
You love being in the East Room for the big news conferences, the big announcements, the big political events, because it's important, but it's also just a great theater in one of the great museums of American democracy.
BLITZER: And Gloria, you have to be -- if you're president of the United States, you have to be careful. This is not going to be a victory lap, if you will, because there's still work that remains to be done.
BORGER: Yes, there is. And I think they're very, very attuned to that, although they're obviously thrilled over at the White House. I was corresponding with a senior presidential adviser, who not surprisingly e-mailed me and said, this is a wonderful, wonderful night for this country. So you can tell exactly how they're feeling over there.
You know, the stimulus package, when you go back to their big votes, the stimulus package was something they had to do, because this, the economy was terrible, we're in economic disaster et cetera and et cetera.
This is something they wanted to do. And people weren't sure when Barack Obama was elected, given the economic problems we face in this country, whether he would actually elect to do this.
Some people believe he should not have done it. But it was his choice and the Democrats almost could not do it.
BLITZER: Here's the president and the vice president. They're walking in together. They're pretty happy. They're smiling.
The president will make a statement. The vice president is there as well. And let's listen in.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America's workers and America's families and America's small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here in this country, neither illness or accident should endanger the dreams they've worked a lifetime to achieve.
Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn't give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear.
Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things. And tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government, a government of the people and by the people, still works for the people.
I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn't an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote.
I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done.
I want to thank my outstanding vice president, Joe Biden, and my wonderful secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue.
I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.
Now today's vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and right a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard, it has been heard tonight.
To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
Let me reaffirm that conviction. This moment is possible because of you. Most importantly, 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. For most Americans this debate has never been about abstractions. The fight between right and left. Republican and Democrat. It's always been about something far more personal.
It's about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that the premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough.
It's about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told no again and again and again.
It's about every small business owner, forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business.
They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.
Tonight's vote is not a victory for any one party. It's a victory for them. It's a victory for the American people. And it's a victory for common sense.
Now it probably goes without saying tonight's vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. It will be tallies of Washington winners and losers. Predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration.
But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared or the status quo that serves the interest of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties.
A system that works better for the American people.
If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reigning in the worst excesses and abuses the insurance industry. With some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known, so that you are actually getting what you pay for.
If you don't have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice in competition and cheaper prices for insurance.
And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history. So that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you'll finally be able to purchase quality affordable care in the security and peace of mind that comes with it.
This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent. Extending its life by almost a decade.
And it's the right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that. So this isn't radical reform, 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 in 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 within 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 foundation 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. And may God bless the United States of America.
KING: No questions tonight. The president and the vice president leaving the East Room after a celebration at the White House.
Low-key, though. The president in his tone. Grateful that the House of Representatives has given him a major, major legislative victory, passing the health care reform legislation.
That bill, the main bill is on its way to him, the Senate bill that already had been passed. As the president noted one more round of this as a fix-it bill, some changes passed by the House, now goes to the Senate.
Some quick thoughts from our panel. And stand by also, a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE coming up at the top of the hour.
David Gergen, to you first. You have served in both Democratic and Republican White Houses when presidents have been struggling. This president was struggling. But a bit of a spring back in his step tonight.
GERGEN: Certainly it was, John. And a deserved one from this president's point of view. He has achieved something no other president in the 20th century did. And a number have tried, as you know. A number have failed.
He's the first to succeed. He was a tired looking president out there tonight. Joe Biden looked very tired. But he had reason to be there and to be as proud as he was.
At the same time, you know, he is re-launching, as Ed Henry said, a public relations blitz. He wants to keep repeating what's in here. He clearly understands he needs to get the numbers up in terms of approval for this bill as well as for himself.
Bill Clinton has said he thinks that he'll jump 10 points in approval polls. We'll have to wait and see. But it's interesting. He started that blitz tonight.
KING: David, thank you.
Dr. Gupta, with the stroke of a pen, when the president signs the Senate bill, some changes in our system, some dramatic changes will take effect. Some will take effect the next day. Some it will be three or four years before they get there.
Help somebody watching at home who says, what will this mean to me next week and next month?
GUPTA: Right. And he was careful to say this is not radical reform but this is major reform. And some of these reforms are going to take some time to go into effect. But within the next three to six months you'll start to see some of these things.
For example, someone who is sick, someone who has some sort of medical problem and is uninsured, they'll be able to join one of these high- risk pools that people have been talking about for some time.
That's a big deal. They really haven't had insurance available to them. That should take place within about 90 days we hear. That's going to be funded by -- with about $5 billion as part of this.
You also hear this idea that people who have insurance right now are perfectly happy with it. But then they get sick or they have some sort of problem and they get dropped. These sorts of drops, you know, the rescissions, will end as part of this.
And also this fact that you can't cap how much the insurance company will pay annually over a lifetime. That will stop as well. Children will be -- kids, I should say, will be covered up to the age of 26 under their parent's plan if they want to be.
So these are just a small sample of some of the things.
KING: Donna Brazile, I have covered the last six Democrats conventions and presidential campaigns. And it goes back well before that. Health care reform has been on the platform for as long as you've been alive, as long as anyone at this table has been alive.
Tonight there's a big health care bill that's making its way to the president of the United States.
As someone who's been active in the Democratic Party for so long, the significance.
BRAZILE: There's no question, I was e-mailing Paul Begala earlier. And, you know, Paul is a pro-life Democrat. I'm a pro-choice Democrat. But we went to work for Dick Gephardt back in 1988 because Dick Gephardt said this was going to be the cause of his lifetime.
Tonight millions of Americans will be able to sleep better knowing that they will be able to keep their health insurance even if they have a preexisting condition. This is a victory for the American people.
KING: Let's sew it up on the politics.
Kevin Madden, Republicans lose a big, big round tonight. The president will get a major health care bill. He's likely to get the changes as well. What next for the Republican Party which says both on the policy they think this is dreadfully wrong, they think the politics just might actually help them.
MADDEN: The Republicans lost tonight on a vote but they did not lose the American public. The president is still at odds with the American public. The interesting political thing to watch over the next few months now is knowing that there's this anger out there against Washington, knowing that there's -- the public is largely lined up against this bill.
Will that anger dissipate over time? I mean the American public has very atomized expectations for what they expect in this bill to happen. So it'll be interesting to see whether or not that -- those expectations are satiated.
Or will we see that this anger will fester and it'll become even a bigger political problem for Obama and the Democrats?
KING: It is a remarkable debate, a significant achieve for the president and the Democrats tonight. This Senate legislation is on its way. As the debate shifts over to the Senate, stay with us. Our entire team here in the room will help cover it. But we will also follow the debate out in the country as well.
As we turn things over to Wolf Blitzer for a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE," let me make one quick footnote. I launch a new program tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here. "JOHN KING, USA" launches at a remarkable time. A political show based here in Washington at a bustling, crackling time in our politics here in America.
Vicki Kennedy, the wife of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the late Democrat from Massachusetts, will be our exclusive guest tomorrow night. I hope you'll visit with us tomorrow night and every night at 7:00 p.m. as we launch "JOHN KING, USA."
And now my friend, Wolf Blitzer, sitting in. A special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" to continue this critical conversation about health care reform. Wolf?