After more than a year of nearly constant national debate, all the components of President Obama’s ambitious overhaul of the U.S. health care system will finally become law after clearing one final hurdle in U.S. House of Representatives.
The health reform “fixes,” which passed the Senate earlier in the day by a vote of 56-43, cleared the House later in the evening by just 13 votes at the final count of 220-207.
The legislation had been temporarily delayed due to parliamentary hitches raised by Republicans, citing reported “technicalities” in Senate rules that led to requiring the second House vote.
“After hours of trying to find a way to block this, they (Republicans) found two relatively minor provisions that are violations of Senate procedure which means we’re going to have to send it back to the House,” Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told AFP.
Reid had been working to corral Senate votes for a package of “fixes” to the health care legislation, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday.
Manley said the violations related to provisions dealing with “higher education,” but did not provide further details.
“Passage of the two bills was the culmination of what Obama called ‘a year of debate and a century of trying’ to ensure coverage for nearly all in a nation where millions lack it,” the Associated Press reported. “Taken together, the two bills also aim to crack down on insurance industry abuses, and to reduce federal deficits by an estimated $143 billion over a decade. Most Americans would be required to buy insurance for the first time, and face penalties if they refused.
“The second of the two bills also presented Obama with another victory, stripping banks and other private lenders of their ability to originate student loans in favor of a system of direct government lending.”
Student group Campus Progress hailed the significant overhaul of the student loan program, saying in a press release, “the change they voted for has become a reality.”
The fixes were to alter provisions in the original Senate version of health care reform that the House had agreed to pass in exchange for certain alterations.
The main package of reforms became law with President Obama’s signature on Tuesday. The completion of Democrats’ historic reforms mark the largest step toward making health care a right since Medicare was extended to seniors during President Lyndon Johnson’s administration.
The last time the United States came so close to achieving such a significant refashioning of social rights was toward the end of President Roosevelt’s life, as he called on Congress to enact a second Bill of Rights. Many of those rights, including guarantees for housing, food and health care, became part of new constitutions written in postwar Germany and Japan, aided under the Marshall Plan by many former Roosevelt staff who transitioned to the U.S. State Dept.
Until President Obama’s election, there had been little serious discussion about universal health care since Medicare’s passage, apart from a short-lived, politically damaging effort by former First Lady Hillary Clinton in the 90’s. The issue had long been considered the greatest of all “unfinished business” in the United States by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who died of a brain tumor amid the fierce debate.
This video was snipped by Mediaite, as broadcast by CNN on March 2010.