The Historic Health Care Push: A Look Back

Whether you're for it or against it, it's hard to deny that Sunday's passage of a sweeping health care reform bill in the House of Representatives was historic.

Presidents have been trying to accomplish the task for more than a century, and President Obama's own reform bid looked doomed at more than one point, as CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

In 1912, a key plank in Theodore Roosevelt's presidential campaign was national health insurance. He lost. President Harry Truman tried again after World War II in 1945, but didn't win his case either.

All of these years, the government's duty to subsidize health care remained an open political question.

Special Report: Health Care Reform

In 1993, first lady Hillary Clinton took up the health care reform mantle. That ended in embarrassing defeat.

When Barack Obama was elected president, he felt he had a mandate -- and health care reform would be his signature issue. But when the House failed to pass it before summer break, all hell broke loose.

President Obama and Democrats were blindsided by opposition at Town Hall Meetings. The Tea Party movement erupted.

Crowd members shouted "You guys are stealing from us!" "Why can't the government leave us alone?" and accusations that Obama's health care plan would lead to seniors being "written off" or even put to death.

The month ended with the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The president had counted on him to forge bipartisan support and move the bill quickly. Now, Mr. Obama found himself back on his heels.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, 1932-2009

"Know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it," Mr. Obama said to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9, 2009.

In the House, amid a fight over abortion funding, the first draft of a bill squeaked by in the wee morning hours -- but only with major concessions and a single Republican vote.

The Senate made bigger changes still, killing the sweeping public option and passing the bill on Christmas Eve. But because of the changes, it would have to go back to the House for another vote.

And then, Democrats lost Kennedy's seat when, on Jan. 20, 2010, Republican Scott Brown pulled off a surprise victory, ending the Democrat's 60-vote supermajority.

"I'll be the 41st vote against health care reform," Brown vowed at the time.

President Obama answered calls to get more involved. On Feb. 25, he convened a bi-partisan summit and cancelled a trip to twist arms and make deals.

On the eve of the House vote, the President's job approval numbers were still below the 50 percent mark and most Americans said they were fed up with Congress.

But in the end, the House had three votes to spare. And the President won on his signature issue - a health care overhaul that eluded Washington for nearly a century.

More Coverage of Health Care Reform:

McCain: Dems Haven't Heard End Of Debate
House Passes Health Care Bill
Poll: Health Care Reform Still Confusing
Health Care Debate Shows Ideological Split
Obama: "This is What Change Looks Like"
Health Care Vote: How Each Representative Voted
Announcement of the Vote
Boehner Tells Democrats: Shame on You
Pelosi Urges House to "Make History"
Health Care Bill: What's In It?
Short-Term Effect of the Bill
What, Me Worry? Obama Watches Basketball
Stupak Called "Baby Killer" for Backing Bill

  • Sharyl Attkisson
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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.