Cooking Up Health Care Reform
By Debra Kozikowski
I’m not much of a television watcher, but last night my eyes and ears were glued to the screen during the health care debate in the U.S. House of Representatives. My fingers tapped in response to online comments from far flung friends and colleagues, mostly Democrats, as the debate stormed through the evening.
At one point someone posted, “What language is John Boehner speaking?”
Quick quips ran the gamut from, “ I think we used to call it bull*#+* …” to ”I muted him.” to “He’s speaking ‘conservative.’ My hope is that it goes the way of Latin.”
When House Democrats counted down the last eight seconds of the voting period then erupted in loud cheering after the hotly debated legislation passed, so did my entire Facebook friend list.
A few hours before the debate started, a Facebook status report from NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd (yup, he’s on Facebook too) read, “Want to stump a GOP strategist: Ask them their preference: health care passes or fails?”
In the end, 219 Democrats for, 39 against. Representative Joe Cao (R-Louisiana) was the lone Republican yes vote. The stance of scowling House Republicans after the bill passed told me they were prepared for anything. The Republican National Committee released this statement after the vote:
“Today with help from their liberal House allies, President Obama and Nancy Pelosi finally got what they have been creating behind closed doors these past months — a government-run health care experiment that will increase families’ health care costs, increase the deficit, increase taxes on small businesses and the middle class, and cut Medicare.”
There they go again.
With the passage of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, health care reform proponents took a big step towards turning the bill into law. House Democrats needed 218 votes to ensure passage of the bill. Last night the vote came down to the wire, with some conservative Democrats moving against the legislation even with the inclusion of the controversial “Stupak” amendment.
The House passed the amendment to the health care bill prohibiting federal funds for abortion services in the public option and in the insurance “exchange” the bill created. The prohibition, introduced by Democratic members, including Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, excludes cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. It passed 240-194.
A second amendment considered by the House, introduced by Minority Leader John Boehner, which would have substituted several sections of the health care bill dealing with insurance, failed by a vote of 258-176.
Earlier in the day, President Obama said the House of Representatives had the chance of a lifetime as they considered the legislation. After a meeting with House Democratic leadership, the president reported that he told lawmakers “opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation.”
“This is their moment, this is our moment, to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us,” Obama told the press corps gathered in the White House rose garden. “Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard, this is our moment to deliver.”
“Oh what a night,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a news conference after the House adjourned its session for the night. But for all the exhilaration at the House victory last night, it’s uncertain when the Senate will vote on their version of health care legislation. If the Senate passes its bill, the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled into one bill and voted on again.
Word to the wise, the Senate is where the real fight is. There’s a lot more work to do before health care reformers can answer the question, “Is it soup yet?” in the affirmative.