House Passes Final Piece Of Landmark Health Reform, 220-207
Politico: "Congress completed its work Thursday night on the broadest social legislation in almost a half-century, as the House capped the year-long legislative saga over health reform by signing off on a package of fixes to the newly minted law. In the end, the titanic battle over remaking the American health care system drew to a close on a pair of votes drained of suspense after the Senate approved the clean-up bill earlier Thursday. The House approved the clean-up bill, 220 to 207" (Budoff Brown, 3/25).
The New York Times: "'The American people have waited for this moment for a century,' the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said at a news conference. ... In a fitting finale to the yearlong health care saga, the budget reconciliation measure that included the final changes was approved first by the Senate and then by the House on a tumultuous day at the Capitol, as lawmakers raced to complete their work ahead of a two-week recess. The reconciliation bill makes numerous revisions to many of the central provisions in the measure adopted by the Senate on Dec. 24, including changes in the levels of subsidies that will help moderate-income Americans afford private insurance, as well as changes to the increase in the Medicare payroll tax that will take effect in 2013 and help pay for the legislation" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 3/25).
The bill had to go back to the House because of two minor violations of reconciliation rules that forced changes to a provision on student loans, The Washington Post reports. "Democratic leaders said the provisions that were struck - from the part of the bill dealing with Pell Grants for college students - do not significantly affect the student loan program or the overall health-care bill" (Montgomery and Murray, 3/25).
USA Today: The Senate legislation, part of a deal made when the House passed the nearly $940 billion bill on Sunday, passed 56-43. Three Democrats -Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska- joined 40 Republicans in voting 'no.' The new law, signed by President Obama on Tuesday, offers health care to 32 million uninsured people, prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and offers subsidies to make coverage more affordable" (Hall, 3/25).
Roll Call: Though they couldn't live up to their promise to pass reconciliation intact, Senate Democrats did beat back 42 GOP amendments to the reconciliation package in a two-day vote-a-rama. Even after it became clear that Republicans would be able to strike 16 lines of text from the bill, Democrats continued to vote down politically sensitive amendments, including a proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that would have barred insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. Democrats fear votes against proposals like Coburn's could be turned into an effective campaign attack ad come November" (Newmyer and Pierce, 3/25).
The Hill: "The scene unfolding in the House chamber was starkly different than on Sunday. Instead of protesters and packed galleries, lawmakers spoke to a sparsely attended chamber. A handful of members discussed the merits of the amended reconciliation bill, which includes a student loan program to help offset the cost of the president's billion-dollar healthcare plan, while others attacked the healthcare law and the philosophical differences of the parties. Most, though, wanted to go home and did -- quickly" (Young and Hooper, 3/25).
The Associated Press: "In a dramatic nod to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who had spent a career championing health care for all Americans, the Senate observed a moment of silence in his honor before voting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked senators to cast their votes from their desks, a seldom-used procedure the chamber employs only for the most significant measures. Democrats did so in a bow to the initiative's importance to their party, but some Republicans did not."
'This has been a legislative fight that will be in the record books,' Reid said before the final Senate vote" (Fram, 3/25).