(CNSNews.com) - "Today is a day that is going to rank with the day we passed the civil rights bill in 1964," Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said in a speech on the House floor exactly four years ago today, as House Democrats moved to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote.
Before the March 21, 2010 vote, Democrats praised the bill. (The following remarks come from the March 21, 2010 Congressional Record.)
"Today we are doing something that ranks with what we did on Social Security or Medicare. This is the day on which we can all be proud if we vote for that legislation," Dingell said, as he turned to "the facts" of the bill:
"Thirty-two more million Americans are going to have health care," he said. "They don't now. America, which has health care of the best character in the world, does not make it available to 32 million people because they can't afford it, and Americans every day are losing their health care."
Flash forward four years: With 10 days to go in the open enrollment period, the Obama administration says around 5 million Americans have signed up for insurance through the exchanges so far, but it does not know -- or it does not say -- how many of those people have actually paid their premiums; nor does it say how many of those 5 million were previously uninsured.
(A recent study estimated that around 2 million people have newly enrolled in Medicaid under Obamacare's expanded eligibility. But 21 states have not expanded Medicaid eligibility, a decision left up to them by the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.)
"What does this bill do?" Dingell asked four years ago. "It gives Americans the same health care that we here in the Congress have. It preserves their choice, and it sees that if those Americans want to change, they can do so."
But last October, the White House was forced to admit that many people who wanted to keep their individual insurance plans had no choice: They could not do so, despite President Obama's repeated promise that if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. As it turned out, many of those plans folded because they did not meet Obamacare's minimum coverage standards.
Four years ago, Dingell -- quoting the president -- described the health care bill as "the patient's bill of rights on steroids...legislation which protects the rights of citizens and ratepayers."
But after the bill passed, many citizens who believed that their rights had been trampled sued to overturn Obamacare's individual mandate, which requires citizens to purchase health insurance or else pay a fine. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts called the penalty a "tax" and said it was therefore constitutional in his 2012 ruling.
Citizens who feel their religious liberty has been trampled are now suing to overturn the Obama administration's contraception rules, which force Catholics to act against their moral convictions and the teachings of their faith.
"I want to commend my colleagues for this," Dingell said four years ago. "Madam Speaker, I have much humility, joy, and pride in supporting H.R. 3590 and H.R. 4872...As the historic vote draws near, I urge my colleagues to act on behalf of the American people.
"Let us this day stand boldly to do what is right for the health and well-being of our constituents, what is essential for the viability of American business, and what is necessary for our government...When we do this, history will smile upon us. And generations to come will say on this day, this President and this Congress performed something worthy to be remembered."