HARTFORD—In what felt more like a pep rally, U.S. Rep. John Larson and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd tried to paint a picture of the days and hours leading up to the House vote and subsequent passage of the “historic” health care legislation.
In front of a Connecticut audience Monday, Larson talked about how before the final debate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi locked arms with U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and walked into the Capitol past a group of the angry protesters who “hurled racial and homophobic slurs.”
Larson praised Dodd, who he said “doubled down” on his responsibilities after the passing of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and his own fight against prostate cancer. He said many other people may have taken a different course, but Dodd “put his shoulder to the wheel,” and helped get health care reform passed.
Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said it’s with mixed emotions that he says the past 15 to 18 months have been the most productive for Dodd, who after 36 years is not running for re-election. He challenged the audience at Capitol Community College to find a senator who has done more in their six years than Dodd has done in less than two.
Swan said he looked forward to working with Dodd in the future on a “public option,” which was not included in the final bill.
An advocate for health care reform, Swan said Larson also played an instrumental role and was one of a handful of lawmakers in the room working out the details of the House vote on the bill.
“As caucus chair John made sure we had the votes,” Swan said.
Dodd talked about how he has been involved in a lot of issues over the past 36 years, but there “was never a prouder moment than in the East Room of the White House,” where he watched as President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.
“We have much more work to do obviously,” but “I wanted to comeback and thank you,” Dodd said to the audience at Capitol Community College.
Dodd focused a majority of his comments on the benefits included in the legislation.
He talked about the tax credit for small businesses that offer health insurance to their employees, the filling of the Medicare donut hole for seniors, and coverage of children up to age 26.
But despite the upbeat tenor of the rally Monday there is still a segment of the population that wants to repeal the legislation.
In fact, shortly after President Barack Obama signed the bill, attorney general’s from several states filed a lawsuit to try and block it on constitutional grounds. And on Monday the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons became the first medical society to sue to overturn the newly enacted health care bill.
But Dodd and Larson believe support for the legislation is growing, not waning.
“What I think has been fascinating is within hours of the bill being signed into law what a reversal of opinion has occurred,” Dodd said. Referring to polls like the Gallup poll that put support ahead of opposition. However, there are other polls like the Rasmussen poll that show 55 percent in favor of repeal.
Dodd said he believes there were Republicans who wanted to vote for this, but they were told by their leaders “just say no to everything.”
“I think this is the battle that’s been engaged, it’s over. Now we need to come together as Americans because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Larson said.
“This demonstrates that even in the face of opposition you can do something big.”