House Passes Health Care Overhaul

Speaker Nancy Pelosi House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. George Miller. Alex Brandon/AP i

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, left, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) exult at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Saturday night. Alex Brandon/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Brandon/AP
Speaker Nancy Pelosi House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. George Miller. Alex Brandon/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, left, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) exult at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Saturday night.

Alex Brandon/AP

After a full day of rhetorical scuffles and contentious debate, the House of Representatives passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system. The vote for the Democratic plan — 220 to 215 — had the support of one Republican, while 39 Democrats joined most Republicans in opposition. This is the furthest any such legislation has reached, and clears a key hurdle for the overhaul plan.

President Obama called Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Camp David following the vote to congratulate House Democrats on their success. With such close margins, it had been uncertain if Speaker Pelosi could gather the votes needed to pass the bill. With passage secured, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer joked, "For all of my friends in the press who've been assaulting me in the hallways, asking if we have the votes: the answer is yes."

Earlier in the day, President Obama urged lawmakers to "rise to the moment" and "finish the job." A last-minute snag threatened to split Democrats: an amendment to ban abortion services from any private insurance plan bought with a federal subsidy, and from the government-run "public option" outlined in the bill. Conservative Democrats won a hard-fought chance to offer that amendment during debate, and with the support of all but one House Republican, it passed by a vote of 240 to 194. Arizona Republican John Shadegg voted "present" to the amendment.

Abortion opponents claimed a major victory Saturday evening, even as Democrats who support abortion rights vowed to strip the amendment from the final health care bill.

The House Democrats' plan would cost close to a trillion dollars over the next decade, and would mandate that most employers cover their workers. It also requires people who are not insured through their employers to buy coverage, and it expands government programs to help them pay for that. The bill bars insurance companies from denying coverage to people based on pre-existing conditions, and includes other insurance industry reforms.

Joseph Cao of Louisiana was the lone Republican to vote for the bill. The rest were united in the reasons for their opposition. "The American people need to understand this is about a government takeover of the whole health care system," said Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga.

The next challenge for Democrats' health reform plans is to pass the Senate, where the legislation is still developing.

Related NPR Stories

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.