A former speaker’s vindication.
One of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s most infamous quotes was something she said during a 20-minute speech to the National Association of Counties’ 2010 legislative conference. Congress was considering the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the endless, breathless coverage of the contentious process, Pelosi explained, was preventing people from appreciating the significance of its contents.
“We have to pass the bill,” she said, “so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.”Conservatives — abetted by dozens of political journalists who should have known better — immediately seized on a truncated version of the quote. Pelosi was really expressing her confidence in the underlying merits of the bill, but it became instead a shorthand for the allegedly dodgy process through which Obamacare was passed.
But Pelosi never said the bill was enacted in secret or under cover of night, because it wasn’t. She said it was enacted in a fog of controversy. The controversy, naturally enough, focused on the most contentious aspects of the bill rather than on the most broadly popular. Much of it was about misunderstandings or misconceptions — claims that the bill contained death panels or did nothing to restrain health care costs — rather than on the Affordable Care Act’s concrete benefits.
Once the bill was in place, Pelosi was saying, people would come to value and appreciate its contents. She was mocked for this relentlessly for years. But everything that’s happening this winter shows she was right all along.