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March 24, 2010

Health care bill signing, March 23, 2010

Historic signing of health care reform bill, March 23, 2010
  Nine of the seventeen people in the photograph are Catholic Democrats.
Dear Friend,

This is a day of Thanksgiving for America, and particularly for Catholics.  Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed into law a historic health care reform bill that advances one of the core principle of Catholic Social Teaching - that health care is a right, not a privilege.  The law that the President signed - after 100 years on the national policy agenda and more than a year of contentious debate - will expand health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans. The better angels of the American character have prevailed once again.

The legislation will begin to impact the lives of millions of people in the months ahead, and will be fully implemented within 3-1/2 years.  It will immediately lower health care costs for American families and businesses, expand coverage, and strengthen consumer protections while curbing some of the worst insurance industry practices.  See a summary of the immediate benefits here and of the entire bill here.

Yesterday's bill-signing was an historic victory for our country and those whose efforts made it possible, particularly Catholics who supported it.  To the thousands of you who signed the Catholic Democrats Lenten Intention to pass health care, or supported the bill in other ways, we thank you.  Your collective voices were so important - whether writing, calling, or e-mailing your Representative, asking him or her to give up divisive rhetoric for Lent to pass health care.

However, our work is not done yet. This week, the Senate is taking up the Reconciliation package that will refine the legislation signed by the President.  Please sign our Lenten Intention for health care reform, if you haven't done so already, and ask your friends and family to do so, as well.  At the Lenten Intention page, you will find information to contact your U.S. Senator.  Forward to a Friend

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will - yes, we will - fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.
    - Senator Ted Kennedy, May 12, 2009 Letter to President Barack Obama delivered post-humously
candle light
This exhilarating accomplishment does not come without cost - a continued if not increasingly divisive and uncivil fight which is being brought by right wing activists - and influential Republicans - against Democrats, and particularly Catholics, who supported this bill.  We believe that history is on our side.  Whatever extremism accompanies these great days and carries forward to the mid-term elections, we know that it cannot tarnish what we have accomplished.  But we must continue to stay the course and be mindful that our work now begins anew.  

We need your support to continue our collective efforts for the sake of preserving and building upon health care reform - a "stone laid in the foundation of the American Dream," to quote President Obama.  We need to work to elect people to Congress this year who support the values of social justice.  At the same time, we need to demonstrate the strength of our Catholic values using both our faith and reason with conviction and civility.  Please help us ensure our voice for social justice is heard even louder and stronger with a donation of $25, $50, $100 or more (see offer for a signed copy of True Compass below).  However, please know that whatever you can offer will truly make a difference.

At yesterday's signing ceremony, President Obama cited the great work done by Catholic Democratic members of Congress - Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Representative John Dingell, to name only two.  He also made special mention of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who called universal health care "the cause of my life" and worked so hard and so long to make this day a reality.  Senator Kennedy said it was his faith that inspired him to be a voice for the voiceless.  Thanks are also owed to the Catholic Health Association, led by Sister Carol Keehan, DC, and the heads of the 59 religious orders representing 59,000 nuns who courageously supported this bill.  

With your help, we will bring the legacy of Senator Kennedy and the courage of the nuns to fight for social justice at the ballot box and in Congress.

In faith,

Patrick Whelan MD PhD
Suzanne Morse
Lisa Schare
Steve Krueger

PS  A number of people have asked if we can still offer a copy of Senator Kennedy's memoir, True Compass, signed by the late senator's wife, Vicki Kennedy, for a donation of $100.  To commemorate this landmark legislation and in honor of Senator Kennedy - yes we can!   Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.