Obama basks in glow of health care victory, but now comes the hard part: selling it to the people

March 23rd, 2010 by

WASHINGTON - President Obama starts a victory lap on health care Tuesday, signing it into law at a White House lawn party – and hitting the road to sell it to the American people.

That may be the tough part. A national CNN poll last night found Americans opposed the bill 59% to 39%. A majority fear it will cost them money while giving government too much power.

Sen. John McCain mocked “champagne toasting” at the White House and pledged a dragged-out fight. “Outside the Beltway, the American people are very angry” with the bill, McCain said. “They don’t like it, and we’re going to repeal this.”

Democrats professed not to fear voter backlash.

“When people see what the bill actually does, they will see that it helps them in more ways than they might have realized,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

All the House members who voted for the bill, and “even some that didn’t,” were invited to a signing ceremony this morning on the White House South Lawn, press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Even as Senate Republicans dug in to block a package of adjustments to the bill and bring down the whole effort, Obama will begin the big sell to families and small businesses in Iowa City, where he first outlined his health care reform vision in 2007.

Gibbs said the Iowa stop will be the first of many to build up health care as a shield against the GOP drive to target Dems who voted “yes” and take back Congress in the fall elections.

“I assume the President will talk about health care for a long time,” Gibbs said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to challenge the consitutionality of the House bill while mounting a series of parliamentary maneuvers to kill the House fixes sent to the Senate.

“They want us to endorse a raft of new sweetheart deals that were struck behind closed doors last week so this thing could limp over the finish line” in the House, McConnell said in a floor speech.

Republican attorneys general in at least 12 states announced they would sue, charging the health care bill oversteps federal authority.

Gibbs said Obama’s pen would trump the GOP plans to repeal the bill. Once Obama signs the legislation, “health care is going to become law,” Gibbs said.

“I can’t speak to all of the amendments or all of the shenanigans that will be tried” in the Senate, Gibbs said, “but we’re confident that this process is coming to an end” with a package that will survive challenge.

The White House boasted about the champagne toasting – and a hug from Secretary of State Clinton.

In the wee hours Monday, after Obama addressed the nation, he invited top staff onto the Truman Balcony for some bubbly.

Senior adviser David Axelrod said Obama “was in a great mood” and he hadn’t seen the President so happy since Election Night of 2008.

Obama also got props from his old primary rival, Clinton, who as First Lady led a failed effort for a health care overhaul in 1994.

At a security briefing Monday, Clinton beamed about Obama’s success “and when the President came in, [she] walked over and gave him a big hug,” Gibbs said.


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