Democrats Hail Historic House Health Reform Bill, Turn Focus To Senate
News outlets are still digesting the House of Representatives' passage of a landmark health care overhaul and also looking ahead to the Senate, where an effort to meld two health reform bills is stalled.
The New York Times: "Handing President Obama a hard-fought victory, the House narrowly approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system on Saturday night, advancing legislation that Democrats said could stand as their defining social policy achievement. After a daylong clash with Republicans over what has been a Democratic goal for decades, lawmakers voted 220 to 215 to approve a plan that would cost $1.1 trillion over 10 years. Democrats said the legislation would provide overdue relief to Americans struggling to buy or hold on to health insurance. 'This is our moment to revolutionize health care in this country,' said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and one of the chief architects of the bill" (Hulse and Pear, 11/8).
The Associated Press: The "vote late Saturday cleared the way for the Senate to begin a long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress. A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi compared the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later. Obama, who went to Capitol Hill earlier on Saturday to lobby wavering Democrats, said in a statement after the vote, 'I look forward to signing it into law by the end of the year.'"
"The bill drew the votes of 219 Democrats and Rep. Joseph Cao, a first-term Republican who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans. Opposed were 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats." (Werner, 11/8).
MSNBC: "It was about a 13-hour day in the House, but throughout the day, Democrats sounded confident. The president stopped by to meet with the Democratic caucus in the morning, but Majority Whip Jim Clyburn acknowledged that Obama didn't affect the vote. Obama likely wouldn't have been there if the votes weren't there -- and the bill wouldn't have come up for a vote." MSNBC offered some thoughts on what happened between Friday, "when Democrats seemed just short" of the needed vote tally, and Saturday night. "Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind closed doors, solved the abortion issue with pro-life Catholic Democrats." Between 20 to 30 votes depended on this agreement. "Pelosi got the endorsement of the Catholic Bishops, and she allowed -- and said she suggested -- that an amendment explicitly banning federal funding in the House bill, would be voted on. The amendment was introduced and pushed by Democrat Bart Stupak from Michigan. The amendment passed 240-196, and the Democrats kept the more liberal members, who threatened to vote against, in line" (Montanaro, 11/8).
San Francisco Chronicle: "Pelosi spent months in tense negotiations to knit together the wide ideological spectrum of her caucus, from Bay Area liberals who insisted on a public option to moderate Democrats from GOP-leaning districts wary of rising deficits. Moderates succeeded in watering down the public option by untethering it from Medicare, and won a 240-194 vote on an amendment to expand a ban on public funds being used for abortion. Liberals accepted the amendment rather than bring down the entire bill" (Lochhead, 11/8).
MedPage Today: "Once the vote count hit 218, Democrats cheered loudly. Applause continued as the final votes trickled in during the few minutes that remained of the 15 allotted for the vote. When the clock ran down, the chamber erupted in elated applause, the hugging, kissing, and cheering abating only for the few minutes it took for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to declare 'The bill is passed!'"
"The $1.1 trillion bill would expand insurance coverage to an additional 38 million people over the next decade by requiring that almost all citizens have insurance and providing subsidies to those who can't afford it. The measure also contains a public option that would allow doctors and hospitals to negotiate with the government over reimbursement rates for treating patients enrolled in the public plan. The unusual Saturday session was characterized by hours of theatrically partisan debate, and crowds of spectators waited hours in line to get five-minute glimpses of the floor proceedings" (Walker, 11/8).
The Wall Street Journal writes: "With the House health bill passed, Congress moves a step closer to making the biggest changes to the health system in more than four decades," and then details what the bill would mean for various groups, including the uninsured ("the biggest winners"), the insured ("the upside is less tangible"), Medicare enrollees as well as large and small employers (Adamy, 11/7).
The Washington Post has an interactive chart of each of the members' vote, with detail about their districts (including the percentage of uninsured) and campaign contributions. (Yourish, O'Neil and Stanton, 11/8).
NPR: "Democrats have little time to savor the narrow passage of their historic heath care overhaul in the House of Representatives as attention turns to the deeply divided U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid's challenge is to corral enough votes to bring a companion bill to the floor of his chamber before a White House-imposed Christmas deadline" (Halloran, 11/8).
Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing dissent in the Democratic ranks over his health-care strategy leaving him struggling to meet a Christmas deadline and fielding White House pressure to get the bill done. Even before Saturday's House vote, senators had begun to question why Reid suddenly embraced a public health insurance option one that he didn't yet have the 60 votes to pass."
"And Senate moderates are clearly growing nervous about the process ahead - the difficulties of merging a still non-existent Senate bill with a more liberal bill from the House, one that has received the blessing of President Barack Obama. In a private meeting last week with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), half a dozen moderate Democrats aired a long list of concerns about the differences between the two approaches: the $1.2 trillion price tag on the House bill, its reliance on a 'millionaires tax' to fund the overhaul and the lack of common ground between the House and Senate on other taxes, among other issues" (Budoff Brown and Raju, 11/8).