Written by Sly Stone
House Votes 220-215 for Health Reform legislation
The House has passed health reform legislation by a vote of 220-215. One Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), voted for the bill and 39 Democrats voted against the legislation.
Politico....The House of Representatives passed legislation for the first time Saturday night that would provide health coverage to almost every American after nearly a century of false starts and un-kept campaign promises.
The final vote was 220-215. In all, 219 Democrats voted to approve the measure in a largely party-line vote, with 39 Democrats voting no. One Republican supported the bill, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.).
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.
President Barack Obama has made health care reform his signature legislative priority - and he put his personal prestige on the line Saturday by traveling to the Capitol to rally Democrats, telling them to answer the call of history by passing the bill.
But Republicans were equally sweeping in their objections to the bill. "This is perhaps the worst bill I have seen come to the floor in my 11 years in Congress," said Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
The bill includes fundamental changes to the American health care system - creating a public health insurance option to compete with private insurers and for the first time, requiring employers to offer health insurance.
The path ahead remains shaky - for the bill and for many of the Democrats who voted to approve it. Party leaders need to mend the bruised feelings that will linger from this debate before they can address whatever legislation the Senate can produce.
And in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has made clear he might not meet the White House's Christmas deadline to pass a bill and is still struggling to find 60 votes for Senate legislation.
Fights over abortion, immigration and the size of the federal government exposed long-standing cultural and regional divides within the disparate Democratic caucus. A last-minute abortion fight left a particularly bitter taste in the mouth of Democratic women who spent the early part of their careers fighting for reproductive rights.
"People are furious," said Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette.
After hours of negotiations with a group of abortion opponents, led by Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pelosi made a final painful sacrifice to pick up crucial support, allowing a vote on an amendment sponsored by Ellsworth and Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak that would bar any insurance company participating in the exchange program from covering the procedure.
Stupak's amendment passed with a vote of 240 -194-1. Republican Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona was the one present vote.
The two sides engaged in a fevered debate on the House floor hours before the House approved the overarching health care bill, with DeGette calling the amendment "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Pelosi ally, saying, "It attempts an unprecedented overreach."
But in the end, Democrats, like DeGette, subverted their political prerogatives and personal anger for a bigger goal - providing health care to 96 percent of the country.
"I don't believe any of us believe we can hold up what we've been fighting for ... and that's health care," said Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who left her own chamber when the panel granted Stupak his vote.
The bill would expand coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans through a mix of subsidies and incentives and mandates on individuals and businesses. Under the plan, individuals would have to secure insurance through their employers or through an insurance exchange established by the bill. Authors set aside subsidies to help lower- and middle-income Americans who don't qualify for Medicaid pay for that insurance.
In an effort to lower premiums across the marketplace, House Democrats would create a government insurance option to compete with private insurers that would operate in the exchange. And businesses with more than $500,000 in annual payroll would be required to cover their employees or pay a penalty of as much as 8 percent of the combined salaries.