November 8, 2009
In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous.
The 220-215 vote cleared the way for the Senate to begin a
long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all
others in Congress.
A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the
passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later -
and Obama issued a statement saying, "I look forward to signing it
into law by the end of the year."
The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance
and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not
afford it. Large companies would have to offer coverage to their
employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with
penalties if they defied the government's mandates.
A cheer went up from the Democratic side of the House when the
bill gained 218 votes, a majority. Moments later, Democrats counted
down the final seconds of the voting period in unison, and let
loose an even louder roar when Pelosi grabbed the gavel and
declared, "the bill is passed."
In his written statement, Obama praised the House's action and
said, "now the United State Senate must follow suit and pass its
version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will."
Nearly unanimous in their opposition, minority Republicans
cataloged their objections across hours of debate on the
1,990-page, $1.2 trillion legislation.
The nation's drug companies generally support health care
overhaul. And while the powerful insurance industry opposed the
legislation, it did so quietly, and the result was that Republicans
could not count on the type of advertising campaign that might have
peeled away skittish Democrats in swing districts.
Over all, the bill envisioned the most sweeping set of changes
to the health care system in more than a generation, and Democrats
said it marked the culmination of a campaign that Harry Truman
began when he sat in the White House 60 years ago.