By Frank James
Support for the $1.2 trillion legislation came almost entirely from Democrats providing all but one of the yes votes. The sole Republican to vote for the bill was Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana.
Saturday's passage represented the furthest point ever achieved by any legislative effort to recast the nation's health care system. The House bill would end the practice of insurance companies rejecting applicants for pre-existing conditions and would create exchanges where the uninsured could but health coverage..
When the House vote tally reached 218, the number needed for passage, cheers erupted from the Democratic side of the chamber, with Democratic members high-fiving each other on the floor. More cheers went up when the single Republican vote was registered on the electronic tote board.
Thirty night Democrats, many from historically Republican districts, voted against the legislation.
Prior to the final vote, the House rejected a far more modest Republican alternative.
The House also passed an anti-abortion amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would prevent the legislation from providing federal funding of abortions.
The Stupak amendment would prevent public-option coverage purchased by the uninsured through insurance exchanges from covering abortion services. People receiving taxpayer funded affordability credits under the new legislation would also be barred from receiving insurance that covered abortions.
The vote to approve the amendment was 240-194 with 64 Democrats voting for the legislation, an exceptionally large number of Democrats voting for anti-abortion legislation.
President Barack Obama called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi afterwards to congratulate her on a "tremendous victory" Pelosi said at a press conference following the vote. Obama met with Democrats on Capitol Hill Saturday to do some last minute lobbying for support. Pelosi added: "We're proud of our success," she said.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized the legislation after its passage. A snippet from a post-passage Boehner statement:
"Americans want a common-sense approach to health care reform, not Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 2,032-page government takeover that increases costs, adds to our skyrocketing debt, destroys jobs with tax hikes and new mandates, and cuts seniors' Medicare benefits. Americans asking 'where are the jobs' are getting more of the same from out-of-touch Washington Democrats: more spending, more debt, and more government.
The White House issued the following statement:
Tonight, in an historic vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would finally make real the promise of quality, affordable health care for the American people.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality affordable options for those who don't; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the government while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. And it is legislation that is fully paid for and will reduce our long-term federal deficit.
Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America. Now the United States Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will, and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.
Major obstacles remained between the Democratic-led Congress, however, and getting legislation to the president's desk. The future of the health-care overhaul now lay in the hands of the Senate where support is so uncertain that Sen. Harry Reid has indicated he may not schedule a vote until next year.
The opponents of the Democrats' legislation signaled that there would be intense lobbying of the Senate to kill the bill.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce which opposes the House legislation issued the following statement:
WASHINGTON, D.C.--U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Bruce Josten issued the following statement on House passage of H.R. 3962, the health care bill:
"Today, the House missed a significant opportunity to advance reasonable and meaningful health reform that fundamentally changes how the health care system operates and changes the overall upward trajectory in spending. American employers and employees want an improvement in the nation's health care system, not an unsustainable, unaffordable overhaul.
"Friday's news that unemployment has reached double digits for the first time in 26 years should have been a wake-up call for those considering job-stifling tax increases and employer mandates included in the House health care bill.
"Expanding coverage is an imperative; it is also imperative that the nation is moving on a credible and sustainable fiscal path.
"Unfortunately, in addition to the massive new tax burdens on individuals and small business owners, the health care reform bill just passed by the House of Representatives fails the crucial test of reducing the soaring cost of health coverage for businesses or individuals.
"We urge the Senate to listen to the American people and reject the House's partisan approach to health care."