House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Democrats in the House needed 216 votes to pass the Senate’s version of a sweeping health-care package Barack Obama has been pushing with all his presidential might.
They tallied 219.
Democrats hailed the vote as a landmark victory.
“Today is the day that is going to rank with the day we passed the civil rights bill in 1964,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. “Today we’re doing something that ranks with what we did with Social Security or Medicare. This is a day of which we can all be proud.”
“This is an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., summing up the initiative in one word: “opportunity.”
“I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote,” added President Obama. “This isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health-care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”
Republicans in Congress, however, who voted in a solid block to oppose the measure that many argue grants the federal government far too much power at far too much of a cost, blasted the bill during the debate as the “mother of all unfunded mandates.”
“The American people know you can’t reduce health-care costs by spending $1 trillion or raising taxes by more than one-half trillion dollars. The American people know that you cannot cut Medicare by over one-half trillion dollars without hurting seniors,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. “And, the American people know that you can’t create an entirely new government entitlement program without exploding spending and the deficit.”
Promoters of the bill have long touted the millions who will be added to health-care rolls and claimed that long-term, the trillion-dollar bill will eventually lead to deficit reduction.
Critics say that the bill’s supporters have used accounting tricks to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses out of the fine print. They cite several strikes against the reform attempt, from the cost of yet another taxpayer-funded entitlement to the general principle that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – which sets limits on the federal government’s powers – is there an authorization to force people to buy the health-insurance program a federal bureaucrat picks out.
Above all, Republicans countered Pelosi’s contention that the health-care bill is “an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country.”
“This debate is not about the uninsured; it’s about socialized medicine,” argued Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on the House floor. “Your multi-trillion-dollar health-care bill continues the Soviets’ failed Soviet socialist experiment. It gives the federal government absolute control over health care in America. … Today Democrats in this House will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of the American people.”
Leading up to today’s historic vote, Speaker Pelosi was widely reported as scrambling to secure enough support to pass the legislation.
Her efforts were bolstered earlier in the day when a key contingent of holdout Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., struck a compromise with the White House on the issue of abortion funding.
Assured that the president would issue an executive order restricting federal dollars from funding abortion, Stupak and several pro-life Democrats who had been sitting on the fence sided with their party peers in voting for the legislation.
“Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered),” the text of the planned executive order reads. “The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience remain intact, and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
“It’s with the help of the president and the speaker we were able to come to an agreement to protect the sanctity of life in the health-care reform,” Stupak announced to reporters. “There will be no public funding for abortion in this legislation.”
Republicans, however, warn that Stupak made a tenuous trade-off at best, one that could easily come back to bite abortion opponents.
“That is not the rule of law. That’s the rule of man. One man can sign an executive order and one man can repeal that again, the president of the United States,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appearing on “Fox News Sunday” before the deal was announced. “So for those of us in the pro-life movement – and my Democrat friends who are pro-life – that doesn’t cut it. An executive order is not something that is permanent law.”
“From a pro-life prospective, I find absolutely no comfort in this executive order,” added Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. “This puts the fate of the unborn in the hands of the most pro-abortion president in history.”
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, blasted the abortion compromise from yet another angle, taking issue with the ever-expanding use of executive orders, which he claims is unconstitutional:
“It’s an outrage,” Paul told National Review Online. “Why does the Congress allow the executive branch to write law? Republicans do it, Democrats do it – it’s lawlessness. Congress should be curtailing that rather than encouraging it.”
Leading up to today’s vote, the legislation was also widely and loudly opposed by a growing grassroots movement of Americans concerned that a government takeover of health care would violate both the U.S. Constitution and personal liberty.
Tens of thousands of people descended on Washington yesterday, lining up in circles around the Capitol, in protest of a Obama’s trillion-dollar plan to take over health care across America.
Actor Jon Voight joined the protests and was blunt in his assessment of the plan and of Obama:
“It is a runaway train for him. And he has no way to put on the brakes. It is very clear that he will turn this country into a socialist America and his bullying and his arrogance can’t stop,” Voight said.
Several states and a multitude of rights organizations have also committed to challenging “Obamacare” in court on issues ranging from the basic unconstitutionality of a requirement to buy health insurance to the secret meetings Obama has held with his supporters such as Planned Parenthood.
Since the central health-care bill has already cleared the Senate, today’s vote will send the overhaul bill to Obama for his signature as early as tomorrow.
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