Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Vote

Sorry no pictures for this one.

This past Sunday, the House voted to pass the Senate's version of the healthcare bill, which Obama signed into law yesterday (They also passed a reconciliation bill to be sent to the Senate, which has, after some rewording, been sent to the President for his signature). Whether you supported healthcare or not, Sunday was clearly an historic day. The Hill was flooded with protesters. Apparently that weekend, the House Office Buildings were even filled with protesters as some of you may have seen from the news coverage.

On Sunday, I had hoped to go to Capitol Hill to see the vote, but with a research paper due on Tuesday and lots of reading due Monday, I decided to not go and head into the CMC office to get to work. I was joined there by Bukola, Angela and Jake. We were following the House debate on C-Span on the office TV as we worked on our papers. We ordered pizza and picked up snacks for a late night.

At about 8pm, I got a voicemail from my supervisor at work asking if I wanted to come in to watch the vote. At that point I was regretting my decision to not go(along with some badgering from Angela saying I should go), so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to correct that initial decision.

I hurried back home to get my staff ID and then grabbed a cab to the Capitol. When I arrived, there were still a lot of protesters. They were trying to get as close to the House chamber as possible. I was lucky, because with my staff ID, I got to go to the staff gallery, while people with gallery passes had to instead go wait in a longer line.

The staff line was still very long and I was fortunate enough to find one of the other staffers from my office who was also waiting. It turns out that they were sort of cycling staffers through the gallery, allowing groups to wait there for 10-15 minutes and then having them get in the back of the line. I first got in to the staff gallery with about 5 minutes left in debate for both sides. The gallery was packed and the floor was packed as well. As the people in my office said the next day, it seemed like any staffer with floor privileges was there that night. After about 10 minutes they cycled us out of the gallery. We got back into line, and we actually made the cut for being allowed to get back into line by about 10 people.

It turns out we missed the Pelosi speech and the fiery "Hell no" speech from Boehner. We got back in right as they were starting the first vote. It turned out I got to sit about 7 or 8 seats from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. The gallery was also very rowdy, with the person next to me yelling out when the Speaker Pro-tem asked for the "yays and nays."

One of the more controversial moments was when the GOP side brought up a motion to recommit that included the Stupak amendment. Steny Hoyer was clearly caught by surprise and had aides running around frantically trying to understand what was in the motion. I was also in the gallery for the controversial "baby killer" comment during Rep. Stupak's speech.

After the Speaker announced the final tally and after sticking around to watch a couple more extensions (apparently I was the last staff member left in the gallery), I exited the Capitol to head back to the CMC office. It turned out I was taking the same exit as many of the members and got to sort of "walk the ropeline" past a group of cheering supporters. By coincidence, I also ran into Rep. Schakowsky, my boss, and got to talk to her for a little bit before heading back to the office.

After that, it was a cab ride back to 1101 17th Street for a late night working on my CMC homework.

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