Senate Clears Fixes to Health Care Bill
The U.S. Senate has passed a package of fixes to the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama this week, clearing the way for a final vote on the reconciliation measure by the House later today.
Despite three “no” votes from within their own ranks, Senate Democrats approved the bill Thursday by a margin of 56 to 43. Prior to the vote, the chamber observed a moment of silence in honor of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who spent a career championing health care reform.
The reconciliation bill, which the House approved Sunday, had been on a straight track for President Obama’s signature. However, under the rules of reconciliation, the House must now reconsider the measure after Senate Republicans identified two minor provisions that violate parliamentary guidelines.
The violations involve changes to the Pell Grant program for low-income college students. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday she was confidant Democrats had the votes to pass the measure a second time.
“Of all the things they could have sent back, this is probably the most benign [and] easily fixed,” Pelosi said.
Thursday’s climactic vote capped a marathon debate over the measure in the Senate that concluded just shy of 3 am this morning before resuming barely more than six hours later. During 20 hours of debate, Democrats shot down more than two dozen Republican amendments aimed at derailing the bill.
As the Senate voted, President Obama was in Iowa City kicking off a White House push to tout the benefits of health care reform. In prepared remarks, the president warned Republicans who are vowing to repeal the law.
“If they want to have that fight, I welcome that fight,” Obama said. “I don’t believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat. We’ve been there already and we’re not going back.”
The reconciliation bill would, among other things, increase subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans to purchase insurance.