House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was in a Democratic whip meeting in the Capitol Visitor Center when she found out the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act.
After rushing back to her office and leaving messages for the president and vice president, she called Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
“Now, Teddy can rest,” Pelosi told her.
Health care was one of the Senator’s signature issues and he worked to expand insurance coverage for decades, even working with President Richard Nixon at one point on a single-payer system.
Pelosi’s comments illustrated the sense of elation Democrats felt after the ruling was announced.
Outside a Democratic Caucus meeting, repeated rounds of applause were heard.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz walked out of the meeting with a phone to her ear. “Mr. President, oh my gosh! Congratulations!” she said. “I’m overcome.”
The Florida Democrat told reporters Obama was “resolute” and that she told him what a burden had been lifted from her shoulders with the ruling upholding the law.
“This decision is a victory for the American people. With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families and greater accountability for the insurance industry,” Pelosi said in a statement after the ruling came out.
In a press conference, Pelosi said the politics of the ruling, which could help Republicans in the November elections, are irrelevant.
“All of us have to take a step back and say: Why are we here?” Pelosi said. “The politics be damned. This is what we came here to do.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, did offer his estimate of the political fallout, saying that Democrats would benefit.
“This deflates the tea party movement,” Israel said, because conservative activists had rallied against the law in part by criticizing it as unconstitutional.
The ruling also vindicates Pelosi’s predictions about the ruling that were sometimes ridiculed for their confidence.
En route to a hastily called Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss the ruling, Pelosi ran into Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), one of her top lieutenants who helped manage the Affordable Care Act on the floor during debate of the legislation in the 111th Congress.
The two hugged.
“What a great victory!” Pelosi said.
“You bet your ass,” Miller replied.
“I did,” Pelosi joked as the two laughed.
The California Democrat was wearing the same pair of purple pumps she wore on the day the health care law was enacted.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.