After one year of acrimonious debate and legislative wrangling, the
U.S. Congress has approved a major reform of the nation's health care
system. By a vote of 219-212 tonight, the House approved the original
Senate bill and will shortly vote on a package of amendments Senate Democrats have
agreed to pass in the upper chamber using the budget reconciliation process. Under the legislation, an
estimated 32 million Americans will gain access to affordable health
insurance by the end of the decade. The federal deficit will be reduced
by $143 billion in the next 10 years, as well.
Chicago Democrat Dan Lipinski reversed his earlier support
for health care reform and voted against the measure, joining the entire Republican caucus in
opposition. This came after a block of anti-choice Democrats struck a deal with
Congressional leaders and the White House to vote for the bill so long
as President Obama signs an executive order
that would "ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion
services." All 11 other Illinois
Democrats, including pro-life Rep. Jerry Costello, voted in favor of the bill.
UPDATE (10:45 PM): The House has also passed the reconciliation package by a 220-211 margin. No member of the Illinois delegation changed his or her vote. That bill now moves over to the Senate.
UPDATE 2 (10:52 PM): A statement from Rep. Jan Schakowsky, as delivered on the House floor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
“Madam Chairwoman, I want to express my profound thanks to the people of Illinois' 9th Congressional District, the place where I was born and lived nearly all my life, for the privilege of being here today to cast my vote for this historic health care measure. My life’s work has been to answer what is at bottom a moral question – Will the United States of America continue to allow its people to lose their lives, their homes and their fundamental sense of security, or we will finally decide that a proud and wealthy country like ours has an ethical obligation to provide access to health care for everybody? Is it even credible to think that a country as rich in so many ways as ours can’t afford to do this?
And a statement from freshman Rep. Mike Quigley:
"It was a privilege to be a part of this historic night and pass a bill that gives nearly 70,000 of my constituents access to health care coverage they didn't previously have. Amidst the heightened rhetoric of this debate, we have to remember that this bill tells insurance companies they can't deny Americans coverage because of a preexisting condition or catastrophic illness.
While I am pleased that we gave the American people the fair and transparent up-or-down vote they deserve, I'm also aware that this bill is not perfect. I will not give up my tenacious fight to make sure every woman has access to the health care she needs and her rights afford. This bill is not perfect, but it is a crucial place to start from which we will review, refine, and most importantly, help millions of American families get the coverage they deserve for the first time in generations."