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A Flurry of Final Activity on Health Reform

March 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Democrats and Republicans denounced threats and vandalism aimed at lawmakers who voted for the new health care law, as the changes from the reconciliation process were sent the bill back to the House for a final vote. Ray Suarez reports.
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JIM LEHRER: There was a last extra lap today on the road toward health reform. The Senate passed a bill reshaping parts of the new overhaul law. It is set for final approval in the House some time tonight.

Ray Suarez has our report on the endgame and the continuing aftermaths.

RAY SUAREZ: After working late into the night, the Senate was back this morning to take up dozens more Republican amendments. Those ranged from protecting doctors doing pro bono work from lawsuits…

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN, R-Nev.: We talk about making health care more affordable. Well, one of the ways to do that is to encourage people to give away health care.

RAY SUAREZ: … to allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Yet, the laws of land have actually created state-by-state monopolies that have not been responsive to American people and have run up costs.

RAY SUAREZ: All those amendments failed with the Democratic majority.

WOMAN: The yeas are 39 and the nays are 56. Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.

RAY SUAREZ: The final vote, along party lines, came early in the afternoon.

U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: In this vote, there are 56 yeas, 43 nays. The bill, as amended, is passed.

RAY SUAREZ: Senate Majority Leader Reid heralded the passage moments after.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., majority leader: This, of course, was a health care bill. It was also a jobs bill, an economic recovery bill. It was a deficit-reduction bill. It was an anti-discrimination bill. It was truly a bill of rights. And now it is the law of the land.

RAY SUAREZ: The changes the Senate passed today are revisions to the bill President Obama signed Tuesday. They include expanded Medicaid funding for the states, higher taxes on upper-income Americans, and improved drug coverage under Medicare.

The bill was then returned, again, to the House for final approval. After Sunday’s climactic tally in the House, another vote was necessary because Republicans found technical problems with at least two provisions.

House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, stayed on message, continuing their resistance to the reform law they still call a bill.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, house minority leader: Now, the tax hikes, the Medicare cuts, the job-killing mandates, the accounting gimmicks, the backroom deals, we’re going to fight to repeal them at every single turn. And the fact is, this bill should be repealed and should be replaced with commonsense steps.

RAY SUAREZ: And Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responded.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., speaker of the house: You have insurance, you get sick, you get dropped. That’s not called insurance. Again, they can’t rescind your policy on your way to the operating room.

RAY SUAREZ: At the same time the Senate passed the bill, President Obama was in Iowa City, Iowa, rallying support for the overall reform.

Today, the president responded to Republicans who vowed to run on a platform of repealing the law in the midterm elections.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is all — this is the reform that some folks in Washington are still hollering about, still shouting about. Now that they passed it, now that we passed it, they’re already promising to repeal it. They’re actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. You have been hearing that.

And my attitude is, go for it.

RAY SUAREZ: Protesters were out in force.

PROTESTER: I’m tired of what Obama is doing to our country.

PROTESTER: Trying to take our private property, and I’m not OK with that.

RAY SUAREZ: That anger has caused some to take it a step further. Several Democratic lawmakers had rocks and bricks thrown at their local offices.

This afternoon, there were reports Representative Anthony Weiner’s office in New York received a letter containing white powder. At least 10 Democratic House members have been offered stepped-up security.

MAN: Congressman Stupak, you baby-killing mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED), I hope you die.

RAY SUAREZ: Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak was one of the targets. He and six others provided the votes to pass health care reform.

And even on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, rifle crosshairs mark the districts of 17 Democratic members of Congress she wants to see defeated.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: But those expressions and those acts of vandalism and those threats of — of more have no place in a civil debate in our country.

RAY SUAREZ: Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chair and former governor of Virginia, asked supporters in an e-mail today for $25 or more to help defend lawmakers from the threats.

Republican Eric Cantor surprised people when he said shots were fired into the unmarked offices of two of his longtime strategists. Richmond police say the bullet had been randomly fired skyward.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., house minority whip: Let me be clear. I do not condone violence. There are no leaders in this building, no rank-and-file members in this building that condone violence, period. I have received threats since I assumed elected office. It is reckless to use these incidences as media vehicles for political gain.

RAY SUAREZ: The bill is expected to pass the House this evening.