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House Approves Health Reform, But More Work Remains

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, March 22, 2010

The House on Sunday night finally passed a historic healthcare reform measure that is expected to be signed by President Obama in a day or two. The vote was largely along party lines 219-212.

But approval of the bill is hardly the end of a year-long, hard-fought, and sometimes bruising process that took place on Capitol Hill.

"Now, as momentous as this day is, it's not the end of this journey," said Obama following the Democrats' winning votes in the House.

On Tuesday, the Senate will take up the $940 billion House bill (HR 4872), which revises the Senate bill (HR 3590), that the House also passed Sunday night by a 220-211 vote.

"It's time to bring this debate to a close and begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people. This year, and in years to come, we have a solemn responsibility to do it right," the President said.

But Republicans do not want to close the debate any time soon. They are expected to continue their efforts starting this Tuesday to push back the amended bill in the Senate.

Republicans plan on using "a series of amendments on the substance of the bill" that will highlight "the massive Medicare cuts, the massive tax increases, and other deficiencies that we think are the reason the American people are against this bill," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Sunday CBS's Face the Nation.

"It could end up going back to the House of Representatives for a second vote. They may not be through with it after today. They may get it back if it doesn't succeed in the Senate," McConnell said Sunday.

Prior to Sunday's vote, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who remained critical of the Democrats' actions to pass a reform bill, said, "The process here is broken. ... This bill is not what the American people need or what our constituents want," he said. "Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen."

But, for the meantime, the House Democrats chose to bask in the moment of passing the historic legislation. "We believe that the act passed here tonight is an all-American act," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a briefing after the votes.

And Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who was behind the gavel 45 years ago to announce to the House that Medicare was adopted, said on the House floor Sunday night, "Today is a day that is going to rank with the day we passed the civil rights bill in 1964. Today we are doing something that ranks with what we did on Social Security or Medicare."


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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