Sunday, November 8, 2009

Health Care Bill in the House

This past week, I met my sister in D.C. to visit my son.  My sister and I had planned to get away, to a spa or some other girlie thing, but Joyce suggested visiting Aaron and I was happy.  For a former political science major, seeing my American History/politics-obsessed son, this trip was fun with little time for relaxation. Aaron was in charge in showing us his town, and we were busy, busy, busy.

The last day, Saturday, we started out getting breakfast close to the National Archives and viewed President Obama's motorcade with the President on his way to the House of Representatives to lobby for votes for the health care bill.  We went to the Archives, and then to the National Portrait Gallery, and then went to a movie, before the coup de gras.

Aaron's friend works for a Congressman, and he got gallery tickets for us to watch the debate on health care.  By the time we got to the office building, it was 7:00 p.m.  After a quick private tour of an empty Senate side of the Capitol, we went to the House chamber.  Wow.  When we got there, they were debating the abortion amendment, then the Republican bill and then the voting began.  The tension mounted during the  next four hour.  It reminded me of a basketball game.  A Democratic would get up and advocate, and then a Republican counterpart would counter.  They'd shoot, perhaps score, and then the other team got the ball.

After the abortion amendment passed and the Republican substitute for the health care bill failed, the Republicans threw in an unexpected monkey wrench.  They slipped in a new amendment requiring tort reform.   I sat through the Republicans arguments about how trial lawyers are worse than the devil and should be shot on sight.  Perhaps this is somewhat hyperbolic, but not much.  After articulate and convincing arguments against the amendment by Democrats, especially by a Plaintiff's lawyer from Iowa, while Republicans were heckling, "He's a trial lawyer, a trial lawyer!!! (as if he were an axe murderer), " the amendment failed.

Then the vote on the bill was called.  I had heard that the vote would be close and it was unknown how it would come out.  All 435 members of the House were there.  They voted electronically, and the votes were shown on a score board not unlike the kind used in basketball.  The numbers rolled constantly.  We knew the magic number was 218, over a 50% majority.  The votes slowed, with the Yeas at 213 and the Nays only one or two votes behind.  Slowly the numbers increased, 214, 215, 216 . . . it was like the last few seconds of a sports match.  Then, 217, and seconds went by seeming like minutes.  Finally - 218!!!!!!!!!  The Gallery, or most of us in the Gallery, erupted, cheering and clapping, echoing the cheering and applause on the Democratic side of the floor.  The acting speaker admonished the crowd in the Gallery, us, to be silent.  Still the 15 minute voting time had not officially expired.  When the time clock read 10, the Democratic Representatives began to chant, "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!"  Again, the chamber erupted in cheering and applause.  As Speaker Pelosi walked to the podium to announce the vote, chills went through my spine.  What a rush!

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