WASHINGTON—The biggest transformation of the U.S. health system in decades won approval on Capitol Hill late Sunday, the culmination of efforts by generations of Democrats to achieve near-universal health coverage.

House Passes Historic Health Bill – WSJ.com

WASHINGTON—The biggest transformation of the U.S. health system in decades won approval on Capitol Hill late Sunday, the culmination of efforts by generations of Democrats to achieve near-universal health coverage.

Facing voters’ judgment in the fall, Democrats bet they could overcome public misgivings on a bill that reshapes one-sixth of the U.S. economy. The final battle on the House floor exposed again the divisions that have riven Congress and the nation over the past year.

The House gave final passage to the Senate’s health legislation on a climactic 219-to-212 vote, as Democrats muscled the measure through on the strength of the party’s big majority. In the final roll call, no House Republican voted for the bill, and 34 Democrats voted no, many of them representing Republican-leaning districts.

A short while later, the House, voting 220 to 211, approved a companion bill making changes to the Senate bill, a measure necessary to attract support in the House. Those changes now head to the Senate, where action is expected this week. All Republicans voted against the companion bill, as did 33 Democrats.

President Barack Obama, who staked his presidency on the health-care overhaul, helped push it toward passage with a last-minute promise to issue an executive order making clear that no money dispensed under the $940 billion bill would pay for abortions. That persuaded Rep. Bart Stupak, a holdout Michigan Democrat, to vote yes and bring at least seven colleagues with him.

President Obama spoke just before midnight at the White House. “At a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics,” he said in hailing the vote. “We proved that this government … still works for the people.”

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House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — House Democrats approved a far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s health system on Sunday, voting over unanimous Republican opposition to provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans after an epic political battle that could define the differences between the parties for years.

With the 219-to-212 vote, the House gave final approval to legislation passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve. Thirty-four Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill. The vote sent the measure to President Obama, whose yearlong push for the legislation has been the centerpiece of his agenda and a test of his political power.

After approving the bill, the House adopted a package of changes to it by a vote of 220 to 211. That package — agreed to in negotiations among House and Senate Democrats and the White House — now goes to the Senate for action as soon as this week. It would be the final step in a bitter legislative fight that has highlighted the nation’s deep partisan and ideological divisions.

On a sun-splashed day outside the Capitol, protesters, urged on by House Republicans, chanted “Kill the bill” and waved yellow flags declaring “Don’t Tread on Me.” They carried signs saying “Doctors, Not Dictators.”

Inside, Democrats hailed the votes as a historic advance in social justice, comparable to the establishment of Medicareand Social Security. They said the bill would also put pressure on rising health care costs and rein in federal budget deficits.

“This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House.

Mr. Obama celebrated the House action in remarks at the White House.

“We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests,” Mr. Obama said. “We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things.”

“This isn’t radical reform,” he added, “but it is major reform.”

After a year of combat and weeks of legislative brinksmanship, House Democrats and the White House clinched their victory only hours before the voting started on Sunday. They agreed to a deal with opponents ofabortion rights within their party to reiterate in an executive order that federal money provided by the bill could not be used for abortions, securing for Democrats the final handful of votes they needed to assure passage.

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Los Angeles Times – California, L.A., Entertainment and World news – latimes.com

Reporting from Washington

Ending the Democrats’ decades-long quest to create a healthcare safety net to match Social Security, the House of Representatives on Sunday night approved sweeping legislation to guarantee Americans access to medical care for the first time, delivering President Obama the biggest victory of his young presidency.

The bill, which passed 219 to 212 without a single Republican vote, would make a nearly $1-trillion commitment in taxpayer money over the next decade to help an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans get health coverage.

And it would establish a broad new framework of government regulation to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage and, advocates hope, to begin making healthcare more affordable to most Americans.

“Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics,” the president said in a televised address from the East Room of the White House after the House completed its last vote. “We proved we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges.”

On the House floor, Democrats erupted into cheers of “Yes, we can!” at 10:45 p.m. Eastern time as the decisive 216th “yes” vote was recorded, capping a tortuous campaign that several senior lawmakers linked to the historic battle for civil rights two generations earlier.

“This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century,” said Democratic Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the top-ranking black member of the House.

Obama will sign the bill within the next few days, while the Senate plans this week to begin debating a package of changes to the healthcare legislation that the House also passed Sunday, 220 to 211.

Angry protesters swarmed over the Capitol lawn throughout the day, cheering sympathetic Republicans who urged them on from the House balcony. They called for lawmakers to “kill the bill” and warned of dire political consequences for Democrats who voted for the legislation. “We will remember in November,” the crowd chanted.

Thirty-four Democrats, most from Republican-leaning districts, voted against the main legislation approving the blueprint for healthcare.

YouTube – Obama’s Speech After The Health Care Bill Passed the House

For the first time, most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. Much of the money in the bill would be devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums. Widely viewed as dead two months ago, the Senate-passed bill cleared the House on a 219-212 vote. Republicans were unanimous in opposition, joined by 34 dissident Democrats. In remarks after the completion of the House’s votes, Obama praised fellow Democrats for passing the legislation after well over a year of negotiations and setbacks.

YouTube – House Passes Senate Health Care Bill

The House of Representatives passed the Senate Health Care Bill by a vote of 219-212 on Sunday, March 21, 2010.

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