US House passes health care reform legislation News
US House passes health care reform legislation

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Sunday voted 219 – 212 [roll call] to approve a health care reform bill passed by the Senate in December, sending it to President Barack Obama for final approval. The bill, HR 3590 [text, PDF; materials] was passed after two hours of debate Sunday evening, gaining no Republican support. The bill's passage was quickly followed by the passage of a second bill [HR 4872 text, PDF; materials] by a margin of 220 – 211 [roll call], which is aimed at reconciling the Senate bill with that passed by the House in November and the proposal released by the White House [JURIST reports] earlier this month. The reconciliation bill is expected to be passed [CNN report] by Senate Democrats using the budget reconciliation [Senate backgrounder] process to bypass a Republican filibuster. Obama said [transcript] that the bill represents a "victory for the American people":

[T]oday's vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat – it's always been about something far more personal. … They are why we committed ourselves to this cause. … [The vote is] a victory for common sense.

During floor debate Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] urged defeat [transcript] of the bill, saying that it is "not what the American people need."

Today we stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honor that this House was held in by our fellow citizens. … We have failed to listen to America. And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents. … In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate need for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, to create bureaucracies, and burden every job creator in our land.

The bill's passage comes as the climax to over a year of debate in Congress, and is a centerpiece of Obama's domestic agenda. According to an analysis [text, PDF] by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) [official website], the reconciliation bill will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured, at a cost of $940 billion over a decade, and will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over the same period and $1.2 trillion in the following decade. Boehner disputes [FOX News report] these figures, saying that the CBO scoring process is predicated on a "fallacy."

The Senate passed [JURIST report] its version of the health care reform bill in December in a 60-39 vote [roll call] that split down party lines. Senate Republicans vowed to continue to fight to amend the bill, arguing that it is too expensive and would violate personal rights [NYT report] by compelling people to buy health insurance. The House of Representatives approved its initial version of the legislation in November. Last week, Idaho Governor CL "Butch" Otter (R) [official website] became the first governor to sign a bill [H 391 text; JURIST report] into state law banning any federal mandate for individuals to have health insurance. The Idaho Health Freedom Act orders the state attorney general to file a lawsuit against the national government over any law making health insurance mandatory. Two weeks ago, the Virginia General Assembly [official website] passed a similar bill [text, PDF; JURIST report]. The bill, called the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, says that no individual shall be held liable if they refuse to sign up for health care. Governor Robert McDonnell (R) [official website] has said that he will sign [WTVR report] the bill into law. About 30 other states are working on similar measures to negate [ALEC report] the federal mandate for health insurance.