The House on Saturday night approved the major health care legislation by a vote of 220 to 215, with a single Republican joining 219 Democrats in favor, while 39 Democrats sided with 176 Republicans in opposition.
Speaker Pelosi had a hard fight to get the health care bill adopted. She was forced to make steep concessions to anti-abortion Democrats. The speaker allowed a vote on the amendment from Representative Stupak that would bar any insurance company that participates in the exchange — including the government option — from offering insurance plans that would cover abortions. Even with this concession and President Obama visiting Capitol Hill Saturday morning for a last-minute pep talk and arm-twisting….the margin of victory was still narrow.
Attention Now Turns to the Senate:
Majority Leader Reid needs the votes of all 60 of his caucus members just to bring the bill before the Senate. He also will need those 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. And unlike in the House, Senator Reid has limited control over the floor debate, which took just one day in the House but is expected to last several weeks in the Senate.
Senator Reid office led the work to combine the pieces of health care legislation in the Senate (the HELP committee legislation passed in July and the Finance Committee legislation passed in October.) Currently, the merged language is at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for a “score” or price tag analysis. The CBO isn’t expected to deliver cost estimates of the Senate bill until the end of this week.
President Obama urged the Senate to move quickly on health reform in an address from the Rose Garden yesterday. There are several steps still to come in this process....the Senate must still debate the legislation, vote on it, merge it with the House version, wait for another round of CBO estimates and move it back through both chambers for final passage. If the Senate can complete its work by Christmas, there is talk of keeping the House-Senate conferees in Washington through the holiday to negotiate the conference report.