WASHINGTON

Delivering a hard-fought victory in President Barack Obama‘s year-long pursuit of a national healthcare overhaul, a divided House tonight narrowly approved legislation which both supporters and opponents call historic in its sweep.

The House’s 219-212 vote tonight on a Senate-passed bill will deliver to the president’s desk an initiative for which he has fought on Capitol Hill and campaigned across the country: A healthcare bill that he finally can sign.

Thirty-four members of the president’s party joined all the House’s Republicans in voting against the healthcare bill.

The House then approved a package designed to reconcile differences between the Senate-and-House-approved bill and another which the House already had approved in November.

Together, the two measures would present the president with a long-sought triumph for the signature domestic agenda of his presidency, a bid to offer health insurance to an estimated 32 million Americans who are uninsured and improve the coverage of those with insurance.

The second measure still must go to the Senate, where leaders hope to approve it by a simple majority vote under a process of “budget reconciliation.” Any changes made in the Senate, however, would return that to the House before the president signs it.

“I know this bill is complicated, but it’s also very simple,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) during the final debate. “Illness and infirmity are universal, but we are stronger against them together than we are alone…. In that shared strength is our nation’s strength.”

“Tonight, we will make history for our country and progress for the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in the leadership’s closing argument. Crediting Obama for his “unwavering commitment to healthcare for all Americans,” the speaker said “this legislation… if I had one word to describe it tonight, it would be opportunity.”

“Today, we should be standing together, reflecting on a year of bipartisanship,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said near the close of debate. “We should be looking with pride on this legislation, and our work. But it is not so. Today we are looking at a healthcare bill that nobody in this body believes is satisfactory.”

As the outcome of the vote appeared certain, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) told the House: “Perhaps it’s time for Washington to stop talking and start listening… I’m listening to the thousands of citizens who traveled to our nation’s capital this weekend to tell us in no uncertain terms, they want us to kill this bill.”

At an estimated cost of $940 billion over 10 years, supported in part by additional taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the legislation is projected to offer coverage to some 32 million uninsured people.

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Article courtesy of: latimes.com

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