House OKs both Senate healthcare bill & reconciliation fixes, to be law this week

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p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-margin-top-alt:auto;margin-bottom:6.0pt">House OKs Senate healthcare bill & reconciliation fixes, to be law this week

By Jon H. Harsch

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Washington, March 21 - In the final round of more than a year of heated debate over healthcare reform, charges ranged all the way from “a headlong rush toward socialism” to “our current system is broken - our nightmare ends tonight.”

In the end, with the House-passed bill on the way to the White House for President Obama's signature, the reams of argument boiled down to a simple difference expressed by a protest sign waved at the rally outside Congress: “Healthcare is a privilege, NOT a right.” That sign reversed the phrase so often repeated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a long-time champion of universal healthcare. But the bill's passage Sunday night means that unless a subsequent Congress overturns “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” healthcare has become a right for all U.S. citizens.

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In two key votes late Sunday night, despite Republican warnings of economic and social disaster, the House first passed the Senate-passed healthcare bill 219 to 212, with 34 Democrats siding with the solid ranks of Republicans in opposition. This vote was immediately welcomed by President Obama at the White House, watching the televised proceeding. He is expected to sign the bill into law within a day or two.

Next, the House passed its own “reconciliation” bill which includes several “fixes” to the Senate bill. Under House and Senate rules, this bill which includes cost reductions can be passed by the Senate with a filibuster-proof 51-vote majority, not the 60 votes needed for other Senate bills to avoid a filibuster. Accordingly, when this reconciliation bill is taken up by the Senate on Tuesday, the Republicans have promised to disrupt proceedings as much as possible but the bill is expected to be passed this week. Once signed by the President, the reconciliation bill would amend the original Senate healthcare bill. A final fix, needed to win the votes of House members who felt the final bill wouldn't have sufficient protections against federal funds being used for abortion coverage, is that President Obama has promised to sign an executive order ruling out any possible abortion funding.

Even as it was clear Sunday evening that the Democrats had signed up enough votes to pass both bills, Republicans fought back. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) insisted that “the American people don't want a government takeover of healthcare” and Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) predicted that the new healthcare system “will be declared unconstitutional.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) begged Democrats not to “vote to defy the will of the America people” and then shouted “Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen.”

In contrast, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said “healthcare for all Americans” comes as the logical next step after Social Security and Medicare. She promised that “This legislation will lead to healthier lives, more liberty to pursue hopes and dreams, and happiness for the American people. This is an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country.” She said that “Thirty-two million more Americans will have healthcare insurance and those who have insurance now will be spared from being at the mercy of the health insurance industry with their obscene increases in premiums, their rescinding of policies at the time of illness, their cutting off of policies even if you have been fully paying but become sick, the list goes on and on about the healthcare reforms that are in this legislation. Insure 32 million more people, make it more affordable for the middle class, end insurance company discrimination on pre-existing conditions, improve care and benefits under Medicare . . creating a healthier America through prevention, through wellness and innovation, create four million jobs in the life of the bill, and doing all of that while saving the taxpayer $1.3 trillion.”

President Obama commented that “Tonight's vote is not a victory for any one party. It is a victory for the American people and it's a victory for common sense.” He said that “long after the debate fades away,” the result will be “a healthcare system that incorporates ideas from both parties, a system that works better for the American people.”

To see the official vote tally for the Senate-passed healthcare bill, HR 3590, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which the House passed 219-212, with all 178 Republicans voting no while the Democrats split with 219 Yes votes and 34 No votes, go to: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll165.xml.

The 34 Democrats voting No on HR 3590, including House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson, were: Adler (NJ), Altmire, Arcuri, Barrow, Berry, Boren, Boucher, Bright, Chandler, Childers, Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Edwards (TX), Herseth Sandlin, Holden, Kissell, Kratovil, Lipinski, Lynch, Marshall, Matheson, McIntyre, McMahon, Melancon, Minnick, Nye, Peterson, Ross, Shuler, Skelton, Space, Tanner, Taylor, Teague,

To see the official vote tally for H R 4872, the Reconciliation Act of 2010 which passed 220-211, with all 178 Republicans voting no while the Democrats split with 220 Yes votes and 33 No votes, go to: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll167.xml. The 33 Democrats voting No on HR 4872, including House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson were: Adler (NJ), Altmire, Arcuri, Barrow, Berry, Boren, Boucher, Bright, Chandler, Childers, Cooper, Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Edwards (TX), Herseth Sandlin, Holden, Kissell, Kratovil, Marshall, Matheson, McIntyre, McMahon, Melancon, Minnick, Nye, Peterson, Ross, Shuler, Skelton, Space, Tanner, Taylor, Teague,

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