President Obama took several swipes today at Republican critics of the health care law signed this week, as the Senate was passing a reconciliation bill by a 56-43 vote to make important "fix-its" to the new law.
Speaking at the University of Iowa, the president addressed those Republicans who have said they will run on a pledge to repeal the health care law in November's mid-term elections. "My attitude is: Go for it," Obama said.
"Leaders of the Republican party, they called the passage of this bill 'Armageddon.' Armageddon. 'End of freedom as we know it.' So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling or some cracks opening up in the earth. It turned out it was a nice day," the president joked.
Obama spoke about how the changes in the health system will affect insurance companies.
"They've got to start playing by a new set of rules that treats everybody honestly and treats everybody fairly," he said. "The days of the insurance industry running roughshod over the American people are over."
It was at a speech in Iowa City in 2007 that then-Sen. Obama first spoke about his vision for health-care overhaul.
"Three years ago, we made a promise. That promise has been kept," the president told the crowd today.
Even though the Senate's work on health care is over, the bill still has to cross one more hurdle.
Members of the House have to vote again on the health care reconciliation bill because Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin ruled late Wednesday against some parts of the reconciliation bill.
The provisions that were killed involved Federal Pell Grants for low-income students. The House now has to pass the same reconciliation bill, and a vote is expected by tonight.
"The parliamentarian struck two minor provisions tonight from the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, but this bill's passage in the Senate is still a big win for the American people," Manley said late Wednesday night. "These changes do not impact the reforms to the student loan programs and the important investments in education. We are confident the House will quickly pass the bill with these minor changes."
Democrats wanted to avoid sending the bill back to the House of Representatives but the party's leadership and the White House expressed confidence today that the amended bill will pass without any difficulties.
"I think you've seen attempts to do anything possible to try to delay health care reform," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. "We're quite confident this process will soon pass, and the new bill will be approved quickly by House."
The debate over Republican amendments raged through the night as senators voted from 5:30 p.m. Wednesday until about 2:45 a.m. Republicans offered 41 amendments ranging from prohibiting sex offenders from getting drugs like Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction under the new system to another taking out special deals for individual states, including Louisiana and Connecticut.
"There's no attempt to improve the bill," a frustrated Reid said. "There's an attempt to destroy this bill."
Republicans argued their amendments are legitimate.
"The majority leader may not think we're serious about changing the bill, but we'd like to change the bill, and with a little help from our friends on the other side, we could improve the bill significantly," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
House Members Face Threats From Outraged Public
Polls show that the public is divided over the health care law, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated will cost $938 billion over 10 years and extend insurance to 32 million more Americans.
A USA Today-Gallup poll released Tuesday found that 49 percent of Americans said passing the health care bill was a "good thing." Forty-two percent said they were angry or disappointed.
Outside Washington, D.C., people are channeling their anger against the health care law at their state representatives and vandalizing the offices of some of the lawmakers who voted in favor. Several lawmakers have asked for increased security both in Washington and outside their homes in their districts.
At the Democratic headquarters in upstate New York, someone threw a brick through the window with a note that read, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," a quote from Barry Goldwater.
Anti-abortion Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who struck a deal to vote for the health care bill in exchange for an executive order from Obama, has been the subject of threatening phone calls calling him "Baby killer" and wishing he would die. In one letter he received, there was a drawing of a hanging noose with Stupak's name written on the gallows. At the bottom it read, "All baby killers come to unseemly ends either by the hand of man or by the hand of God."
There have been so many cases of vandalism and angry phone calls that the FBI is now trying to figure out whether angry words will actually translate into violence.
Such actions "have no place in the civil debate in our country," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said today.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said he doesn't believe Congress members are in a real danger right now, but he denounced Republicans for fanning the flames.
"It's an effort to kind of hijack that debate by coercive elements," Frank said on "Good Morning America" today, adding that his Republican counterparts over the weekend were "very much egging on this behavior rather than denouncing it."
Frank said Republicans need to offer an apology without any excuses, after not only encouraging protestors on Capitol Hill but also those who were heckling in the House gallery during Sunday's vote.
"I think they should apologize, denounce this without qualifying the denunciation, without explaining it," Frank said. "Why not just get up and say this is wrong ... and let's have the debates on the merits."
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said people shouldn't resort to violent measures.
"There are ways for people to channel their anger and they should do it in a constructive way," Boehner said today.
But he also continued to denounce the health care law, telling reporters that the president, with the stroke of a pen "took away some of our freedoms."
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., denounced the violence in very strong terms. He also took aim at Democratic groups that are using these recent episodes for political posturing.
"It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gains," Cantor said.
"By ratcheting up the rhetoric, some will only help to enflame these situations to dangerous levels," he added. "Enough is enough."
Cantor said he was also threatened directly via email, and that someone shot at his campaign office in Richmond.
The Richmond Police Department said the bullet went through the window at Cantor's office in Richmond Tuesday morning, but did not go beyond the blinds. The building was not occupied at the time.
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