Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold the most powerful position in Congress, who has been the leader of House Democrats for 20 years, announced earlier today that she's stepping down from her leadership position as soon as the 118th Congress takes office on January 3rd, 2023.
Pelosi is a legend in the U.S. Congress, and no accomplishment more perfectly illustrates her skill than the passage of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act in 2009 - 2010.
There's one night I will remember most when thinking about Nancy Pelosi - the night I watched her single handedly save health care for 20 million Americans. It was at the first Democratic caucus meeting after Scott Brown won the special Senate election in Massachusetts.
Many rank-and-file Democrats were in a panic, and they lined up at the microphone to tell Pelosi that it was time for us to give up on the Affordable Care Act. Or chop it up into little pieces - as some in the White House were suggesting.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Pelosi sat at the front of the room in the basement of the Capitol, and she listened politely to the calls for retreat. Even some of her most loyal progressive allies were begging her to ditch the ACA in the name of political expediency.
And then, when everyone had spoken, she picked up a handheld microphone. I expected her to give into the calls to give up. But she didn't. She did exactly the opposite.
She told the room that there come times when leaders have a choice to make - stand up to the powerful status quo and change the world or give into to short term political expediency. This was our moment, she told us, to save lives and lift millions out of health care poverty.
She told us that it was time for us to stiffen our spines and march forward. She told us the country was counting on us. I watched her single handedly WILL the caucus to act. I watched her mettle change the entire mood of the room. When she was done, no one challenged her.
2 months later, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. And today, it's so popular the new Republican Congress won't dare touch it. I had never seen any person do what Pelosi did that night. I've never seen it since. There hasn't been, and will not be, anyone like her.
Sen. Murphy's story was captured two years ago by Jonathan Cohn in his excellent history of the ACA, The Ten Year War.
Speaker Pelosi made it clear that she wasn't going to take no for an answer in her weekly press conference on January 28, 2010:
We must pass health care reform. The problem is still there. The financial aspects of it, the cost to individuals, to their families, to small businesses, to big businesses, to all businesses, to our deficit, to our federal budget and to our economy are huge. We cannot sustain financially the current system; we, as I say, families, businesses or the federal government. So this has to take place.
The fact is also that, as long as people are discriminated against because they have a pre-existing condition or their policies are canceled because they get sick or their procedure is denied on the way to the operating room with rescissions, as long as people go bankrupt if they have a diagnosis, we must pass this legislation. And we must take whatever time it takes to do it.
Some things we can do on the side which may not fit into a bigger plan. That doesn't mean that is a substitute for doing comprehensive. It means we will move on many fronts, any front we can. As I said to some friends yesterday in the press, we will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn't work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.
While I didn't launch ACA Signups until several years later, I actually spearheaded an effort to thank Nancy Pelosi for her herculean efforts to drag the ACA over the finish line a few days after the bill was signed into law by President Obama...which also just happened to be her 70th birthday.
Specifically, I organized a massive delivery of red roses to the Speaker and the Democratic House staffers:
As a few of you may be aware, all this week I've been spearheading an effort to send Speaker Pelosi roses today, both to wish her a happy birthday as well as to thank her for her successful shepherding of the historic (if, admittedly, deeply flawed) health care reform bill through the House of Representatives.
Sometime this morning (no earlier than 11:00 am EST, I'm told; it could spill over to the afternoon), 2,616 roses should be delivered to the Speaker's Washington, DC office.
I'll be using this diary to post updates as they're available, but in the meantime, I thought you guys might like to read the text of the letter that should be accompanying the flower delivery.
I decided to actually add the parenthetical (mostly). I sweated how to word the signing of it for some time last night, and finally concluded that "Your Supporters" was too limited and self-evident, while "The American People" is too presumptuous and, let's face it, obviously not completely true. Besides, some non-Americans chipped in for the roses as well.
"A (mostly) Grateful Nation" struck me as covering all the bases while still admitting tacitly (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) that no, the entire country isn’t jumping for joy at the moment. But this, too, shall pass...
While many people obviously contributed to this effort, I'd like to give a shout-out to four dKos members in particular who donated their own daily diaries to help keep the campaign on the radar: wide eyed lib, AntKat, DruidQueen and brigitsmom. I'd also like to thank mayrose for posting the "Bread & Roses" song (as well as everyone who encouraged me to use it in the letter).
Thanks to the community at Daily Kos, and others who joined in, Speaker Pelosi received thousands of roses this morning for her 70th birthday.
She sent half of the roses to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and is distributing the other half to hill staff to thank them for all their hard work on the health reform legislation.
As noted, half the roses were sent to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As I noted in a follow-up entry the following day:
First, a brief update on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center postscript to the story: I received the following email late last night from Kossack llbear, who contacted Walter Reed by phone to get some feedback on their reaction. Here's what he had to say:
I called one of the units tonight, talked with a caregiver and asked if there were any stories she could pass on. (I'm sufficiently fuzzing this so no one gets into any trouble.) --Most of these soldiers early in their admission to Walter Reed have problems getting their pay. One has a mother/aunt/grandmother coming tomorrow. That soldier now has a birthday gift to give and was so excited! --Rumor has it that someone - a Marine - found a bunch of songs about flowers on YouTube and held an obscene sing-a-long :).
By the way, the caregiver I spoke with wanted to know if it was really true that went sent Pelosi 2,600 roses - and wished he/she could have contributed, too! --The Public Information Officer who expressed the thanks of everyone at Walter Reed for your thoughtfulness is named - really - Chuck Daisy! He called to confirm that the roses had arrived and was absolutely amazed at the sight and smell.
I want to thank EVERYONE who assisted in pulling this off. When it started, I just figured, hey, Speaker Pelosi did a great job on an important, high-profile bill, and her birthday is this week anyway, so why not send her some roses like we did for Barbara Boxer 5 years (has it been that long???) ago? It quickly morphed into something much larger, of course, as such things tend to do. The GOP and Tea Party people, in a strange way, actually did their part to "help", by acting like even bigger dicks than they normally are; in doing so they just served to enhance the symbolic importance of our own effort (thus leading to the "Roses, not Rocks" tag, but that's neither here nor there.
While many people obviously contributed to this effort, I'd like to give a shout-out to four dKos members in particular who donated their own daily diaries to help keep the campaign on the radar: wide eyed lib, AntKat, DruidQueen and brigitsmom.
I'd also like to thank mayrose for posting the "Bread & Roses" song (as well as everyone who encouraged me to use it in the letter).
Update x3: Kudos to mayrose for pointing out that she wasn't actually the first one to post the "Bread & Roses" poem; it looks like that was actually ebrown. So, thanks to ebrown for posting it, and to mayrose for bringing it to my attention! And, of course, a special thank you to Mike Stark, who went above and beyond the call by not just getting photos of the original flower delivery itself, but followed up by getting some wonderful shots from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center afterwards, as well as llbear, who did the follow-up interview with a spokesman at Walter Reed about the soldiers' reaction.
Update: I also should give a shout-out to both Coast to Coast Flowers (they handled all the orders) as well as Conklyn's Flowers (they did the actual delivery). From all accounts, both florists did an excellent job in terms of both customer service as well as handling the logistics of the project. You can join C2C's Facebook fan page, if you like, and I highly recommend either company for your future floral needs. The other point I want to make is that as proud as I am of how well the Pelosi Rose Campaign went, and as happy as I was to see the pics and watch the thank-you video that Speaker Pelosi posted, and as heartwarming as it was to see the photos of the soldiers and their families at Walter Reed…
...The truth is that for my own part, I've been most touched by some of the comments on the various threads over the past few days.
If you don't mind, I'd like to repost a few of my favorites:
"wow!!!!! I feel so good right now... tears of joy! she shared them with WR Hospital.... doesn't surprise me one bit :-D"
"it felt so nice to be a part of this...No good thing is easy and this was a tremendously good thing...It will be something I will remember for a long time and when people talk about Speaker Pelosi in the future I can say "oh, after the HC bill passed I was a part of a group that sent her over 2600 roses!" We did a good thing."
"I said this in Kos's account of this but it bears repeating. This gesture brought honor to this place. Made us look good, made us look classy, and right on to...all the Kossacks that made our speaker smile today."
"[the campaign provided] me with an affordable and easy opportunity to express my appreciation to the Speaker and her staff. I have a personal investment in this healthcare reform as I have a child who was previously uninsurable. That now changes. Thanks again for letting me a part of this."
"squeee! i swear, this has been like christmas in spring. first it was waiting for the summit. then it was waiting for them to take up the bills. then round two. now pelosi's roses. so much to look forward to lately!"
"I'm just so proud of you guys because I remember stumbling onto this little diary on the rec list which at the time had about 90 roses ordered. Look at this activity now! Talk about creating something positive out of nothing. I really think that activities like this represent DailyKos at its best: a ground level netroots interlocking of people in disparate locations collaborating in small amounts on something which results in a remarkable news story. DailyKos at its finest and I thank you all for it! Made my week."
"I've been so excited about this all week that I failed to put two and two together that "Friday" is the 26th, which is also my mom's birthday! Good thing I sent her card and package last week or I might have forgotten"
"Why does this make me so happy? I've been working on political campaigns for decades, from the days when we would get together around kitchen tables for long evenings of stuffing envelops and licking stamps. This is the first time I've been able to make a gesture that's not utilitarian, that's just a pure expression of gratitude, pride, and solidarity. I know the roses were for our fearless leader, but sending them made me feel even more a part of a joint victory. It was a way to acknowledge my stake in the struggle and my part in the community of people that accomplished won it."
And of course...
"And Joe would say this project is A BIG FUCKIN' DEAL, too!"
I couldn't agree more.
But of the more than 2,000 comments which people have left on the various "Roses Not Rocks! Campaign" diaries over the past 4 days, this is perhaps the single most important one:
"The 26th of March was also my wifes birthday. If she were alive today, she would have been proud to share the day with Speaker Pelosi. She would have been 61 but, the healthcare system wouldn't allow that. She died on inaguaration day last year. --by viet vet on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 02:43:11 PM EDT"
As we celebrate this victory and the success of this campaign, let us never forget what this fight is really all about.
Oh, and by the way...the 20 million Americans who Senator Murphy noted gained healthcare coverage thanks to the ACA? It now tops 36 million Americans.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.