Wake Up the Senate: Health Care Passes the House

The Affordable Health Care for America Act passed the house tonight with two votes to spare.  One Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao of  Louisiana, crossed the aisle for America tonight and voted in favor of the measure. One lone Republican who gets it. Be sure to thank him: 202-225-6636.

Here are some news links.  Even thought WTAE is identical to the Chicago Tribune story, I’m giving them the nod because their email is always the first to arrive in my inbox.

From the Chicago Tribune:

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.

“It provides coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It offers everyone, regardless of health or income, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will have access to affordable health care when they need it,” said Rep. John Dingell, the 83-year-old Michigan lawmaker who has introduced national health insurance in every Congress since succeeding his father in 1955.

More here from the Tribune.

From the New York Times:

After President Obama urged lawmakers to “answer the call of history” and approve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system, House Democrats edged closer to a vote on Saturday night as the House adopted an amendment that would tighten restrictions on coverage for abortions under any insurance plan that receives federal dollars.

The concession eased a threat by some anti-abortion Democrats to oppose the bill but it infuriated supporters of abortion rights, who said they would support the larger bill and continue to fight for changes in the final legislation.

After months of internal party wrangling, angry town-hall-style meetings and extended committee deliberations, the House was debating into the night on the legislation to transform the nation’s health insurance system.

Democrats were increasingly confident they had locked up the necessary support for the measure, an optimism bolstered when the bill easily survived a preliminary vote, despite Republican opposition.

But the difficult issue of how much to restrict new federal spending on abortion continued to complicate the outcome by creating a split between Democratic supporters and opponents of abortion rights and loomed as one last obstacle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided late Friday night to allow anti-abortion Democrats to vote for the so-called “Stupak amendment,” named for Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan. The measure, long expected to pass, would tighten restrictions on abortions by prohibiting federal money from being used to pay for the procedure, either through a new federal health insurance plan or under private plans that enroll people relying on federal subsidies.

“From Day 1, my goal has been to ensure federal tax dollars are not used to pay for abortions,” said Representative Brad Ellsworth, Democrat of Indiana and one of the authors of the abortion provision.

Ms. Pelosi’s concession eased a threat by some Democrats to abandon the bill but also left abortion-rights Democrats facing a choice between backing a provision they bitterly opposed or scuttling the bill.

More here from the NYTimes.

From the Washington Post:

Removing a key final hurdle for House passage of historic legislation to expand the nation’s health-care system, lawmakers late Saturday approved a measure to ban almost all abortion coverage under health-care plans run or subsidized by the government.

The controversial amendment prohibits a government-run insurance plan the bill would create from offering to cover abortion services. It also would block people who receive federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance from buying policies that offer coverage for abortions.

Should a health-care package pass the Senate, it’s unclear whether the anti-abortion amendment would survive negotiations between the two chambers over the shape of final legislation.

Anti-abortion Democrats had said they could not support the health-care package without assurances that tax dollars would not end up paying for abortions. Pro-life and religious groups had also sought the amendment.

Both parties continued to closely guard their private whip counts in advance of the late-night vote on the entire package, but the public pronouncements by lawmakers during the day suggested an extremely tight vote. Democrats remained publicly optimistic they would come out just above the minimum 218 votes they need for victory. Freshman Reps. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), joined by second-term Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), announced their support for the bill, giving a boost among the critical bloc of votes coming from the roughly 75 Democrats who were elected within the last three years. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a veteran who is considered a health-care expert among conservative southerners, is also expected to vote for the legislation.

“We know the status quo is unacceptable and bankrupting individuals, businesses and all levels of government. While this bill is not perfect, it is necessary that we pass it so we can begin to fundamentally reform health care,” Maffei said in a statement as debate inched along.

More here from the Washington Post.

From WTAE in Pittsburgh:

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.

“It provides coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It offers everyone, regardless of health or income, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will have access to affordable health care when they need it,” said Rep. John Dingell, the 83-year-old Michigan lawmaker who has introduced national health insurance in every Congress since succeeding his father in 1955.

In the run-up to a final vote, conservatives from the two political parties joined forces to impose tough new restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance policies to be sold to many individuals and small groups. They prevailed on a roll call of 240-194.

Ironically, that only solidified support for the legislation, clearing the way for conservative Democrats to vote for it.

More from WTAE here.

Now the Senate can get to work!