Health Overhaul Reaches Its Final Lap

The Senate passed revisions to the health care overhaul on Thursday — the so-called reconciliation bill. Now, those revisions head to the House of Representatives for final approval. After health care, what next?

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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Robert Siegel.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And Im Robert Siegel.

The long and bitter legislative fight over health care has come to an end. This afternoon, the Senate passed a package of fixes to the health care bill that was signed into law two days ago, and the House has now done the same and is sending it to the White House. Once again, the votes were along party lines.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: The Senate's health care marathon ended with a record-setting 42 consecutive roll-call votes, 41 of them were for Republican amendments that were handily defeated one after another in a session that lasted until 3:00 this morning and then resumed seven hours later.

As senators assembled for the final vote, majority leader Harry Reid sized up what they'd just been through.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Majority Leader): We're all tired but this has been a legislative fight that will be in the record books.

WELNA: Republicans had hoped at least one of their amendments would pass and thus change the bill and force it back to the House, which approved it on Sunday. The bill was changed but only because Republicans found two items in it that did not conform with the fast-track rules that allowed Democrats to move the bill without having to muster 60 votes to beat back filibusters.

New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg formally lodged his party's complaint against the fix-it bill.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): Health Care and Education Affordability and Reconciliation Act, on Page 118 at line 15 through 25, does not produce changes and outlays or revenues and thus is extraneous. And therefore, I raise a point of order under Section 313(b)(1)(A) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

WELNA: And Vice President Joe Biden, there in his role as president of the Senate, acknowledged the validity of the complaint.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: Point of order sustained.

Sen. GREGG: Thank you.

Vice Pres. BIDEN: Both provisions are stricken.

WELNA: Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said the provisions had nothing to do with health care policy. Instead, they were related to a revamping of federal student loan policy that affects Pell Grants for low-income college student. It was a measure that had been tacked on to health care corrections package.

Senator KENT CONRAD (Democrat, North Dakota; Chairman, Budget Committee): While I wish these provisions were not being stricken, removing them would not affect the score of the program or prevent the bill from achieving the goals of the new Pell Grant policy.

WELNA: Democrats and some Republicans voted from their seats to mark the importance of the occasion. At the end, the vice president announced the results.

Vice Pres. BIDEN: On this vote, there are 56 yays, 43 nays. The bill as amended is passed.

WELNA: Vice President Biden had come to be a potential tiebreaker in the voting. But New York Democrat Charles Schumer said later the fact that all but three Democrats voted for the fix-it bill was a good sign.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): We're very gratified. Fifty-six votes is more than we thought we'd have. It's more than the number of commitments Harry made to Nancy Pelosi. And it's an example of the momentum thats moving in our direction, I think.

WELNA: Republicans though lashed out at Democrats for using reconciliation rules that kept them from needing a 60th vote they no longer control.

Lindsey Graham is a Republican from South Carolina.

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): Reconciliation was used to pass health care reform bill without a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate. It was used in a way to nullify the Massachusetts election of Scott Brown.

WELNA: Graham warned that Republicans will be more reluctant than ever to cooperate from now on with Democrats. The next big fight on the horizon will likely center on revamping financial regulations, and another partisan battle is expected.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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