Triumphant Obama defies Republican backlash on Bill
Published 23/03/2010 | 05:00
A DAY after winning the health reforms on which President Obama has staked his first term in office, the White House dismissed threats to repeal the historic Bill and challenged Republicans to fight it on its substance.
Republican lawyers in at least 12 states announced repeal attempts yesterday, based on claims that the bill to extend health insurance to 95pc of Americans for the first time infringes on states' rights.
Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama's press secretary, tried to disarm the legal threat that is turning into the spearhead of an angry Republican backlash to the Bill. "A lot of big pieces of legislation are challenged in some ways," he said in the first White House briefing since Sunday's late-night vote.
Asked if he thought that the appeals would succeed, Mr Gibbs replied: "We don't."
He also hinted at the battle to come in which Democrats will dare Republicans to claw back the new benefits and tax credits being made available to middle and lower-income Americans in the next four years as part of the $940bn (€700bn) legislation.
"If people want to campaign on taking tax cuts away from small businesses, taking assistance away from seniors getting prescription drugs, and a mother knowing that her child can't be discriminated against by an insurance company . . . then we'll have a robust campaign on that," Mr Gibbs said.
It is a campaign for which Republicans are planning even as Democratic leaders in the Senate prepare to push through the final elements of a complex reform package that seemed dead just two months ago, but is now destined to change American society.
Because of the loss of a 60-seat "supermajority" in January, the Democrats were unable to merge the healthcare Bills passed last year by each House of Congress in the normal way.
At the insistence of Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, who has emerged as the heroine of health reform, the Senate will vote on a package of "fixes" to the Bill that the House approved to make it palatable to liberals and moderates in the Democratic caucus.
House members approved the fixes along with the main Bill, but the Senate has yet to do so -- and questions remain over whether Republicans may be able to delay or wreck the final stage.
"It's going to be a bumpy ride in the Senate," the Republican John Cornyn said. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has assured his party that he has at least 52 votes for the measure. It is expected to pass later this week, but if it does not, the Bill approved by the House will still become law.
Mr Obama is due to sign the Bill today before flying to Iowa on Thursday to begin persuading those who remain unconvinced.
Health industry stocks rose at the prospect of 32million new paying customers, and Democratic strategists spoke of battles ahead.
One said: "We are the party of the people again. They are the party of 'no'." (©The Times, London)