A Divided House Approves Sweeping Health Reform Legislation, 220-215

After months of intense debate and negotiations, the House of Representatives approved an ambitious effort to change the country's health care system, with 219 Democrats and one Republican voting for the bill and 39 Democrats voting against the bill. Democrats in the chamber cheered the final tally.

The Associated Press: "In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous. The 220-215 vote cleared the way for the Senate to begin debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress. A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later. ... Democrats said it marked the culmination of a campaign that Harry Truman began when he sat in the White House 60 years ago" (Espo, 11/7).

Politico reports that the Republican who supported the bill was Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La., and adds: "The bill has a steep cost – both in dollars, $1.2 trillion, and political capital – but Democrats hailed its passage as the next chapter in a governing legacy that produced Medicare and Social Security. 'Today, as we all know, is an historic moment for our nation and for American families,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor hours before the vote. (O'Connor, 11/7).

The Washington Post: "The bill would for the first time require every individual to obtain insurance and would try to make it affordable by vastly expanding Medicaid and creating a marketplace where people could receive federal subsidies to buy coverage from private companies or from a new government-run insurance plan. Though some people would not benefit -- including about 6 million illegal immigrants, by congressional estimates -- the measure would virtually close the coverage gap for people who do not have access to insurance through an employer" (Montgomery and Murray, 11/7). 

Roll Call reports that proponents hailed "the plan to expand affordable care" while opponents warned "against a massive government takeover of health care." One after another, Republicans lined up to bash the bill for mimicking expensive, government-run health care systems. 'We should never support a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health care system,' said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

"Democrats, meanwhile, leaned on personal experiences to highlight the need for a health care system overhaul. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a breast cancer survivor, said if she were to lose her job today, 'I could not buy health insurance coverage tomorrow because I have a pre-existing condition'" (Bendery, 11/7).

Reuters: "The battle over Obama's top domestic priority now moves to the U.S. Senate, where work on its own version has stalled for weeks as Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid searches for an approach that can win the 60 votes he needs. Any differences between the Senate and House bills ultimately will have to be reconciled, and a final bill passed again by both before going to Obama for his signature. ... The vote followed days of heavy lobbying of undecided Democrats by Obama, his top aides and House leaders, and a deal designed to mollify about 40 moderate Democrats who are foes of abortion rights" (Whitesides and Smith, 11/7).

CNN reports on the anti-abortion amendment to the bill that got support from members of both parties, one that "prohibits federal funds for abortion services in the public option and in the so-called insurance 'exchange' the bill would create. The vote passed 240-194. The amendment was introduced by anti-abortion Democrats. Its consideration was considered a big win for them and for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which used its power -- especially with conservative Democrats in swing congressional districts -- to help force other Democratic leaders to permit a vote that most of them oppose. The prohibition, introduced by (members including) Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, would exclude cases of rape, incest or if the mother's life is in danger" (11/7).

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama visited Capitol Hill just before debate started: "According to an aide, the president told the closed-door meeting of lawmakers; 'It's tempting to say, 'I'm tired, it's hard, I'm getting beat up back in the district, it's just not worth it.' ' But he called on them to reject that view, saying Democrats would be seen as failures if they don't pass the measure. 'I am absolutely confident that when I sign this bill in the Rose Garden, each and every one of you will be able to look back and say, 'This was my finest moment in politics,' ' the president was quoted as saying" (Yoest and Adamy, 7/11).

McClatchy lists 10 ways the House bill would change health insurance, including creation of health insurance "exchanges or marketplaces," barring insurers from "denying or limiting coverage because of pre-existing conditions," an expansion of Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and the requirement, by 2013, that nearly everybody have health insurance.  (Lightman, 11/7).

Roll Call in a separate story: "The House Saturday evening rejected a Republican alternative health care reform bill on a largely party line vote, 176-258. One Republican, Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.), joined 257 Democrats in opposing the GOP legislation. House Republicans released their 219-page bill on Wednesday after weeks of criticism from Democrats for assailing the majority’s health care reform bill without releasing a plan of their own" (Kucinich, 11/7). 

The Hill made note of protests: "The visitors gallery in the House chamber remained packed on Saturday evening as lawmakers on both sides of the healthcare debate pleaded their case on the floor below.  ... Many visitors had participated in a rally against the healthcare bill earlier Saturday afternoon, called at the last minute by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). ... King seized on the energy generated from protesters who traveled to the Capitol on Thursday and held a mini-sequel on Saturday afternoon. Though half as many people showed up at King’s rally, on the East front of the Capitol, the outrage and frustration was equally as intense." (Hooper, 11/7). 



 

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