March 23, 2010
By Linda Feldmann
Barack Obama has reached his historic moment.
After more than a year of heated debate, backroom maneuvers, and pitched partisan wrangling, President Obama stands on the verge of enacting comprehensive reform of the American healthcare system.
The House Democrats' passage of reform legislation Sunday night means Mr. Obama will have succeeded where presidents going back decades before him have failed, setting the stage for the biggest expansion of the American social safety net in nearly 50 years.
But the cost to Obama has been profound. He began his presidency 14 months ago with sky-high approval ratings of 70 percent and a big, ambitious agenda that began with a record economic stimulus package, then turned quickly to healthcare. Climate change and financial regulatory reform stood next in line. Obama's original goal was to complete healthcare last summer, but the road got so bogged down in a fruitless effort at bipartisanship – and a fierce conservative backlash – he was forced to go it alone with only Democratic votes. . .
"Republicans have fought him on every turn, ... and I think he will be both personally and politically rejuvenated," says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "He'll be able to move back into economic recovery and job creation."
Indeed, in the home stretch of congressional action, Obama found his old campaign voice, delivering rousing speeches at rallies around the country. Just before midnight Sunday night, right after the House vote, Obama marked the moment in the East Room of the White House.
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