From NY Times:
WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval on Sunday to legislation that would provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation’s health care system along the lines proposed by President Obama.
By a vote of 219 to 212, the House passed the bill after a day of tumultuous debate that echoed the epic struggle of the last year. The action sent the bill to President Obama, whose crusade for such legislation has been a hallmark of his presidency.
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Democrats hailed the vote as historic, comparable to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security and a long overdue step forward in social justice. “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.
After a year of partisan 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 of abortion rights within their party to reiterate in an executive order that federal money provided by the bill could not be used for abortions, giving the Democrats the final votes. Democrats said that in expanding access to health coverage for uninsured Americans, they were creating a new program every bit as important as Social Security and Medicare, while also putting downward pressure on rising health care costs and reining in federal budget deficits.
Republicans said the plan would saddle the nation with unaffordable levels of debt, leave states with expensive new obligations, weaken Medicare and give the government a huge new role in the health care system.
[3:03 p.m. – 3/21/2010] – Democrats Say They “Have The Votes Now” For Health Care
WASHINGTON – House Democratic leaders predicted that a rare Sunday session will produce one of the most significant legislative triumphs in decades: passage of a landmark health care overhaul that promises to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
The chances for House passage increased Sunday afternoon after a possible agreement between Democratic leaders and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who had led a group of anti-abortion lawmakers in opposing the bill, was revealed.
Stupak is now poised to support the bill, NBC’s Chuck Todd reported. Stupak told CNN that there is no deal yet but that he and the White House are “close” to an agreement. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also said that Democratic leaders been able to secure Stupak’s support.
The potential deal appears to be based on a promise that President Barack Obama will issue an executive order that would provide more assurances that no public money would be used for elective abortions.
“If we get this thing resolved, then they’ll have more than enough votes,” Stupak said on Sunday morning.
[8:36 a.m. – 3/21/2010] – House Prepares To Make Historic Health Care Vote
Washington, D.C. — Former President Bill Clinton made several phone calls Saturday to lobby wavering Democrats to sign on to the health care reform bill, Democratic sources told CNN.
Clinton made phone calls to an unspecified number of House Democrats on Saturday as leaders tried to round up the 216 necessary votes to pass the bill.
According to CNN’s latest count, 33 House Democrats plan to vote against the legislation. Thirty-eight Democratic “no” votes are needed to kill the bill.
On Saturday, President Obama made his last appeal for the reform, telling House Democrats on the eve of the historic vote: “Let’s get this done.”
“If you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix the system,” Obama said.
“Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid,” he said. “Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.”
Obama’s speech came just hours after Democratic leaders decided to abandon a controversial legislative mechanism to avoid a direct vote on the health care legislation. They will now hold an up-or-down vote on the $875 billion reform plan that the Senate has already passed.