It took more than a year, a lot of compromise and back-room dealing and — finally — some legislative sleight-of-hand for Congress to pass and send President Barack Obama a health care “reform” bill that falls far short of the lofty goals originally promises.
While the package extends — and mandates — coverage for 32 million uninsured Americans and denies insurance companies the right to reject insurance for “pre-existing” conditions, it does not provide a “public option” nor will it reduce the skyrocketing cost of insurance premiums.
A last minute deal with pro-life Democratic moderate Bart Stupak and his followers gave Obama and House Democrats the margin they needed for passage and the bill passed 219-212, sending the legislation to the President for signature.
“This is what change looks like,” Obama said after the passage. “We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.”
The truth of that statement remains to be seen. Polls show Americans divided over the health care bill that Obama will sign and even those who think the legislative is a good idea are skeptical of its ability to cure the nation’s health care ills.
And even as Democrats celebrated their legislative victory, the debate over health care reform is far from over. The House approved a companion bill of “fixes” by a 220-211 vote but that package must go back to the Senate where Republicans hope to use parliamentary tricks to stall the legislation and possibly force enough changes to force it back to the House for more debate.
Reports The Associated Press:
Obama is expected to sign the larger bill early this week.
The complicated two-step process was made necessary because Senate Democrats lost their filibuster-proof supermajority in a special election in January, a setback that caused even some Democratic lawmakers to pronounce the yearlong health care effort dead. Under the relentless prodding of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in particular, it was gradually revived, and the fix-it bill will be considered under fast-track Senate rules that don’t allow minority party filibusters.
“We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans,” said Pelosi, D-Calif., partner to Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the grueling campaign to pass the legislation.
“This is the civil rights act of the 21st century,” added Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the top-ranking black member of the House.
GOP lawmakers attacked the legislation as everything from a government takeover to the beginning of totalitarianism, and none voted in favor. “Hell no!” Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, shouted in a fiery speech opposing the legislation. “We have failed to listen to America and we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents.”
Thirty-four Democrats also voted “no” on the Senate-passed bill.