House approves landmark reform bill

March 21, 2010 at 11:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Sunday voted 219-212 to adopt the Senate healthcare reform bill and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Speaking after the vote, Obama said the outcome "proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our greatest challenges," and that "government still works for the people."

"Tonight at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics," Obama said.

Thirty-four Democrats voted against the healthcare measure previously approved by the Senate, joining 178 Republicans. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

After approving the landmark legislation, the House voted 220-211 to approve a reconciliation bill that made the Senate bill more palatable to the lower house. That measure now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has assured House leaders a majority of members will approve it.

During the final debate on healthcare reform House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, pleaded with members to vote no, arguing the House "is broken" and if Congress passes the reform measure, "We break the ties of history in this chamber and we break our trust with Americans."

Boehner accused Democrats of "arrogance" and said passage of the measure "will be the last straw for the American people."

In her closing remarks in support of the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., thanked President Barack Obama "for his unwavering commitment to healthcare for all Americans" and said the legislation will create jobs and "strengthen economic security."

"I believe that this legislation will unleash tremendous entrepreneurial power into our economy," Pelosi said.

The vote came after anti-abortion Democrats said they had reached a deal with the White House, ensuring enough votes for House passage of healthcare reform. Under the deal, Obama would sign an executive order stipulating no federal funding will pay for abortion under healthcare reform, the White House said.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., joined at least eight other anti-abortion House Democrats to announce the deal at a news conference. All nine said they would support the healthcare bill.

"We are very pleased with this order," Stupak said. In answer to a reporter's question, Stupak said, "We're well past 216" votes, the amount needed for passage in the House.

Based on changes made by Democrats Saturday, the Congressional Budget Office revised the bill's cost estimate to $938 billion over 10 years. The CBO said that would be more than covered by new tax revenues and spending cuts, including $500 billion from a program known as Medicare Advantage, resulting in a $138 billion reduction in the deficit.

The measure would extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans who have none, add millions of people to Medicaid rolls and forbid insurance companies to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. All Americans would have to have insurance or face fines, and business would be required to provide coverage for employees.

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