House sends Senate healthcare bill to Obama's desk after 219-212 vote

The House made history with the passage of comprehensive national healthcare reform Sunday, giving President Barack Obama a major legislative victory after more than a year of intense debate.

The Senate healthcare bill passed the House a vote of 219-212. Thirty-four Democrats voted against their party, and against the legislation. As expected, the Republican opposition was unanimous.

Less than one hour later, the House approved a package of changes to that legislation that will now be considered by the Senate under budget reconciliation rules that will prevent Republican senators from blocking the bill with a filibuster.

Democrats prevailed on that measure in a 220-211 vote, with 33 Democrats voting no.

Democrats also defeated a GOP motion to recommit the Senate bill, which would have killed the legislation, in a 199-232 vote.

Though the outcome seemed in doubt even as the House convened Sunday morning, as it had at numerous points throughout the past year,  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ultimately was able to deliver the votes and further cement her reputation as one of the strongest leaders of the House in decades.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Imagine a society where someone could change jobs without losing health insurance,” Pelosi said in her floor speech, urging members to support the legislation. "Imagine an economy where people could follow their passions and their talents without having to worry that their children would not have health insurance."

Pelosi also offered a tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.): "It wouldn’t be possible to talk about healthcare without acknowledging Senator Ted Kennedy, who made healthcare his life’s work," she said.

In a 15-minute speech, GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) told members they should be ashamed to be approving a bill he said is not supported by their constituents. 

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the Senate healthcare bill into law without delay.  His signature will allow the Senate to consider the reconciliation bill.

Obama can now lay claim to an accomplishment none of his predecessors were able to achieve. Presidents from Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon to Theodore Roosevelt tried and failed what Obama was able to achieve on healthcare reform.

The Senate, which needs only a simple majority to pass the reconciliation bill, is expected to take up the legislation early this week and pass it only after overcoming Republican procedural delays.

The 34 Democrats to vote against the Senate bill were: Reps. John Adler (N.J.), Jason Altmire (Pa.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), John Barrow (Ga.), Marion Berry (Ark.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Rick Boucher (Va.), Bobby Bright (Ala.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Artur Davis (Ala.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Chet Edwards (Texas), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Michael McMahon (N.Y.), Charlie Melancon (La.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Glenn Nye (Va.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Zack Space (Ohio), John Tanner (Tenn.), Gene Taylor (Miss.) and Harry Teague (N.M.)

Sunday’s vote capped of a tumultuous weekend of drama, theatrics, arm-twisting and deal-making, all of which came on top of 20 months worth of legislative debate and maneuvering on the president’s signature domestic policy issue.

The vote in the House did not come easy for Obama and Pelosi, who face the prospect of servere loses in the upcoming mid-term elections.



House Republicans, who bitterly opposed the Democrats’ healthcare reform efforts at every turn, made clear they intend to hammer home their messages against the legislation – and make vulnerable Democrats who backed Pelosi pay at the polls.


The GOP could find some solace in the scene surrounding the Capitol throughout the weekend, as masses of conservative Tea Party protestors convened to demonstrate their intense opposition to Obama and his plans for healthcare. Republicans have also pledged to repeal healthcare reform if they are able to seize control of Congress.

They finally secured the 216 votes they needed late Sunday afternoon when the White House struck a deal with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). Eight anti-abortion rights Democrats came on board after the White House issued an executive order clarifying the legislation’s ban on federal funded abortions.

Momentum built for Democrats throughout last week and into the weekend, as more and more members of the caucus announced they would support the bill.

As early as Saturday afternoon, leaders began hinting that they either had 216 votes in hand, or knew that they would secure them by Sunday night.

Democrats immediately basked in their victory, a legislative accomplishment that some of them have waited decades for, and many others came to Congress promising to deliver.

While Obama's emotional Saturday speech and his administration's efforts to broker a last-minute deals on abortion and Medicare reimbursement rates brought a critical mass of members into the yes column, Democratic leaders made it clear they believed Pelosi was the driving force behind the bill's passage in the House.

“This was obviously a huge effort, but it was assisted by the fact that we were hearing stories from constituents,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said shortly before the vote of the effort Pelosi put forward. “Doing nothing was not an option.”

"The Speaker had to channel the momentum,"  Van Hollen added. "It was either moving forward on this (healthcare) or doing nothing," he said.

Roxana Tiron contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 11:41 p.m.