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Sunday, March 21, 2010

E.J. Dionne: "Yes they made history"

Published minutes ago:
Yes, we did.

Finally, President Obama can use those words. The passage of health-care reform provided the first piece of incontestable evidence that Washington has changed.

Congress is, indeed, capable of carrying through fundamental social reform. No longer will the United States be the outlier among wealthy nations in leaving so many of its citizens without basic health coverage.

In approving the most sweeping piece of social legislation since the mid-1960s, Democrats proved that they can govern, even under challenging circumstances and in the face of significant internal divisions. [...]

That's exactly true of the reform Congress enacted Sunday night. It does not quite cover everyone -- Social Security didn't, either -- and that must be taken care of. There will be years of wrangling over the system's costs and how it works in practice. Every successful health system in the world confronts such arguments. This new law will not end all our health-care problems (no law could), but it does a great deal for access, and it makes solving other problems a little easier. Above all, it puts us on a new path.

For Obama, this struggle was transformative. He began his administration full of hope that his campaign pledge to achieve concord across party lines was a realistic possibility. But when faced with implacable Republican opposition, he jettisoned the happy talk and came out fighting.

If bipartisanship is more fashionable than partisanship, partisanship with a purpose is infinitely preferable to paralysis. Obama has made clear that he will reach out when he can, and do battle when he must.

By temperament, the president is more a consensus builder than a warrior. But he is also a practical man who wants to accomplish big things. On Sunday, he did just that on health care, and he earned a place in history.

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