Last night was certainly one for the ages in Washington, D.C. President Obama gave a rare address to a joint session of Congress on health care. It was a speech that --depending on whom you believe -- will either kickstart the health care debate and seal Obama's legacy, or be the beginning of the end of his presidency. The President was also heckled during the speech by a Republican Congressman -- a rare lack of decorum in the usually polite chambers of Congress. Here's what people are saying about the speech:
"I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last... The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action."
-- President Obama
-- Rep. Joe Wilson, (R) South Carolina, heckling Obama
This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility."
-- Wilson, in an email to reporters
"The president clearly and forcefully laid out what's at stake for every American in this debate. For those who have health insurance now, the situation is unsustainable because of rising costs and uncertainty over whether their insurance will cover them when they need it. Now, it's time for Congress to act, hopefully in a bipartisan fashion, after an opportunity for full debate."
-- Sen. Carl Levin, (D) Michigan
"I sat there tonight wondering what the purpose of this evening was. I was hoping to hear the president flesh out a middle ground, but instead we heard platitudes and campaign rhetoric."
-- Sen. Bob Corker, (R) Tennessee
"The commander in chief tonight became salesman in chief for the most important domestic priority of his agenda. He answered questions for Congress on how we can achieve universal coverage for all Americans."
-- Rep. Michael McMahon, (D) New York
"It was a good speech, the problem is that what he wants and what they've written are two totally different things. I'm willing to compromise to get things fixed. But I'm not willing to put the government in charge because we don't have a good track record."
-- Sen. Tom Coburn, (R) Oklahoma
"The president’s rebuttal of the fear-mongers was strong and he made a compelling case for preventing insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or dropping coverage because of a serious illness and for requiring all Americans to have health insurance. He clarified his goal of full coverage and his support for a public insurance option."
-- Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, writing in The New York Times
"I was incredibly disappointed in the tone of his speech. At times, I found his tone to be overly combative and believe he behaved in a manner beneath the dignity of the office. I fear his speech tonight has made it more difficult, not less, to find common ground. He appeared to be angry at his critics and disappointed the American people were not buying the proposals he has been selling... If the Obama administration and congressional Democrats go down this path and push a bill on the American people they do not want, it could be the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency."
-- Sen Lindsey Graham, (R) South Carolina
When it came down to it, Obama really had to focus on an audience of one: That common man or woman who's happy with the quality of care they get - but is among the 70% of Americans who believe the system as a whole needs major changes... If Obama could make that audience of one, which is actually an audience of millions, less anxious at end of his speech than at the beginning, he'd take charge of the debate again. He did.
-- John Greenman, columnist, New York Daily News
“All eyes are on Congress. Once and for all, let's roll up our sleeves, leave our ideologies at the door and craft a bill based on sound policy. We must pass comprehensive health reform legislation that ensures competition through a public option, provides access for all with universal coverage and redirects the emphasis of our health system with a renewed focus on prevention.”
-- Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association