Obama Signs Historic Health Care Legislation

President Obama on Tuesday signed the health care overhaul into law. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday. At the White House, Obama said the law will enshrine a "core principle": that everyone should have access to affordable health care.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

President Obama is just about to sign historic health care legislation into law at the White House.

President BARACK OBAMA: Today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.

(Soundbite of applause)

WERTHEIMER: The signing ceremony will take place - is taking place in the White House East Room. NPR's Scott Horsley is at the White House, and joins us now.

Scott, this is a huge day for President Obama. Could you just describe the scene?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Well, Linda, the signing is taking place in the East Room, a large ceremonial room here at the White House. And there's always a sense of event when the president speaks there. He is surrounded by many of the lawmakers who voted for the bill, as well as people whose personal stories of health care hardship helped inspire this legislation.

There's obviously an atmosphere of celebration in the room. The lawmakers were chanting, fired up, ready to go. There's also a sense of history. A lot of people are snapping pictures. They want to record this moment.

WERTHEIMER: And what did the president have to say?

HORSLEY: Well, he said that with the signing of the bill, the overheated rhetoric about the overhaul will confront the reality of the overhaul. The White House is counting on that. They think that people, when they get to know about the consumer protections in this bill, will lose a lot of their skepticism or their downright opposition to the reform.

WERTHEIMER: And what will be next? I guess, sort of something like what we're seeing now: the selling of the legislation and its immediate benefits.

HORSLEY: Well, that's right. And later today, the president is going to give a second speech about this health care bill. Our colleague, Julie Rovner, likens it to the big reception one might hold after a smallish wedding. The East Room, as big as it is, is not big enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to be a part of this historic event. So they're going to hold a second event for about 600 people at the Interior Department. They might have done that outside on the South Lawn, but they were a little concerned about bad weather. Of course, as it turned out, it's a pretty nice spring day here in Washington, and a very sunny day for the Obama administration.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much.

NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley.

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