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Health care reform: Why so many pens at the signing ceremony?

President Obama signs health care reform legislation during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. At his left are two boxes of extra pens. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

Ever try to sign your name with 22 pens? Not so easy.

"I've got to use every pen so it's going to take a really long time," said Barack Obama at Tuesday's historic signing of the health care bill. "I didn't practice."

In a longtime tradition, the president put his signature to the bill using almost two dozen commemorative pens, which were handed out to key congressional leaders and others who helped pass the legislation. It took the lefty more than 90 seconds to pick up each of the 22 pens and make a small portion of each letter in his name -- and yeah, the signature probably looks a little weird. "We are done!" he announced with the final stroke.

The White House didn't release details about the custom-made pens -- complete with the presidential seal and signature -- but aides to one recipient confirmed (on super-secret background) that they were black and manufactured by Cross, an American company. Obama used similar rolling-ball pens on his first day in office.

The president gave one of the souvenirs to Vicki Kennedy, widow of Ted Kennedy, and Sister Carol Keehan, the Catholic nun who gave the bill a critical endorsement. Marcelas Owens, the motherless 11-year-old boy who became a national symbol for health-care reform, didn't get a pen but did stand next to Obama during the ceremony.

The pen-worthy were primarily politicians who pushed the bill through: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sens. Dick Durbin, Max Baucus, Tom Harkin and Chris Dodd, and Reps. John Dingell, George Miller, Henry Waxman, Sander Levin and Charlie Rangel. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got one, as did Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House point person on health reform, and Phil Schiliro, White House congressional liaison.

The president kept one pen for himself and gave one to Vice President Biden -- who added his own special touch to the day when he whispered to Obama (in front of an open mike) that it was a "big [frakking] deal." Indeed -- the remaining two pens will be donated to the National Archives.

By The Reliable Source  |  March 24, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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When health care reform is understood in much simpler terms, it becomes obvious how illogical it is:

Posted by: ais000 | March 23, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

You know what republicans, heck the media, are failing to acknowledge about the heath bill, is the education part. If all these doctors are going to leave they need to make sure there will be replacements. Check the scope on the education legislation in the health bill

Posted by: republicanblack | March 23, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Today I donated $100 as a congratulations gift at
I'm looking forward to wearing the "Health Care Reform" t-shirt, with the Hope and Change logo, they will send me in return. I'm a retired Colorado homebuilder and have been around the block a few times. Although I'm a confirmed independent to maintain objectivity in the issues I am a solid supporter of President Obama and his agenda. My hope is as I wear the shirt I can engage in conversations with folks I meet about health care reform and share my insights - in particular, list the lies and hypocrisy that is running roughshod through the GOP/teabagger crowd. The bill is not perfect, Obama admits this, but it was shameful the way the GOP did the "waterloo dance" to "kill the bill". If I have any success they will pay a price for their anti-American, immoral tactics - which amount to nothing more than a naked grab for power. God Bless America.

Posted by: truthseeker13 | March 23, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

I’m tired of hearing about uninsured people taking advantage of our medical system. I think its costing American tax payers millions and millions of dollars. This Health Reform is a step in the right direction. At least it’s a start and maybe people will be held accountable for themselves. Here is a graphic that says it all…

Posted by: sarita1111 | March 23, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Yes let's have more massive entitlement programs, more debt, more spending, more printing of trillions. We need to spend more to get out of this depression. When this job killing, monster tax program is fully unfolded the idiots gloating here will only be happy if they are currently living off the government tete. For anyone that works for a living this is going to be one of the blackest days in our Nation's history.

The only saving grace is the Nation is going to be bankrupt and like Greece the government is going to be forced to start cutting entitlements. Civil unrest to follow shortly thereafter. Just a matter of time.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | March 24, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Chances are the pens used for the signing of the Health Care Reform Bill were not American made. Cross does not manufacturer pens in the USA. Look closer it was probably made in China. (Check under the clip). Other pens used by the President have been USA Made Pens from Sheaffer.

Posted by: MAPall | March 24, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I keep hearing "job killing" thrown out by critics. Yet I also hear them say this law will require more doctors and nurses and tax agents. How is that consistent?

Posted by: LetsBeReasonableIL | March 24, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

With the passage of this bill. It appears from and analysis that employers nationwide will be assessed a $2,000 penalty for every employee not offered group health insurance or commonly referred to employer sponsored health insurance. Does this include part time employees that traditionally didn’t qualify or buy health insurance in the first place because of the cost vrs. Hours worked? How in the world is an employer going to absorb this cost? So if an employee doesn’t want to participate in paying their share, the employer is penalized $2,000?

Posted by: mikeoliphant | March 24, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@ais000. You know when the author uses a common every day thing to illustrate his point, the outcome is dubious. Poor analogy, even poorer conclusion. The only competitor missing from the HRC bill is the public. All the other multinational insurance companies are at the trough but I don't see any one there with a plate for us, the american people. Like boardrooms across america, no rep for the little guy at the table. But, I still approve of HRC. We just gotta accept we are a corporatocracy and then try to change it.

Posted by: davidemck | March 24, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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