In a triumphant moment, President Obama appeared before cameras in the East Room of the White House just before midnight, with Vice President Biden at his side, to hail the historic health care vote in the House.
“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform,” Obama said in the late-night speech. “This isn’t going to cure everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what changes looks like.”
The President watched the House vote in the Roosevelt Room with staff. There was clapping and cheering when the vote total reached the magic 216, and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel got a high five, reported press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Obama is expected to sign the Senate health care bill Tuesday, House sources tell us.The President extended his appreciation to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team as well as his own staff, for what had turned into a historic legislative slog that stretched on for a year.
Pelosi had thanked Obama in her floor speech before the final vote. But the president remained largely under the radar this weekend to the American public. His weekly radio and YouTube address was focused on financial reform and he skipped the annual Gridiron Dinner Saturday night.
Instead, Obama worked behind the scenes from the West Wing, speaking to undecided Democrats – and some Republicans – about the health care vote. Robert Gibbs told reporters tonight since Monday, Obama has “taken part in 92 meetings with members of Congress” about health care. The president also worked with Congressional leadership and Rep. Bart Stupak to craft an executive order handling the sensitive issue of abortion and giving Democrats the needed votes to pass the final legislation. A White House official said Obama made a surprise appearance at an 11:00am meeting of senior staff.
Obama also watched NCAA basketball over the weekend, though his bracket suffered a major loss when #1 seed Kansas (from his Final Four) was knocked out of the tournament. The official said that “like the rest of America,” Obama was “examining the rubble of his bracket.”
Read Obama’s full remarks here.