Health Care Bill: House Passes $938 Billion Bill, Sweeping Legislation on Its Way to Become Law

PHOTO President Barack Obama arrives with Vice President Joseph Biden to make a statement to the nation Sunday night following the final vote in the House of Representatives for comprehensive health  care legislation, March 21, 2010.

The House of Representatives passed the sweeping health care bill 219-212, securing a significant victory for President Obama, who lobbied hard this week for the controversial legislation.

The vote was certain after the House Democratic leadership finalized a deal this afternoon with anti-abortion Democrats to vote for the Senate-passed health care bill in exchange for an executive order from Obama affirming no federal funding for abortion.

Obama watched the vote in the White House's Roosevelt Room with Vice President Joe Biden, chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and some 40 staffers.

When the measure passed, Obama high-fived Emanuel and hugged legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro as everyone in the room burst into applause.

"This is what change looks like," the president said in a brief speech after the House vote.

"We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things," he said. "We proved that this government -- a government of the people and by the people -- still works for the people.

The House today voted on two separate pieces of legislation. In addition to the Senate health care bill, lawmakers passed a second, the amendments to that bill made by House members and Obama, by a vote of 220-211.

The bill now goes to the president's desk to sign, after which it will become law. Obama is expected to sign the health care bill Tuesday, after which the Senate will debate and vote on the "fixes."

As the last speaker before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that by passing the bill, Congress would be taking a historic step.

"We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans," Pelosi said.

"It is with great pride and great humility that we undertook this great act of patriotism that occurred on the floor of the house," she added.

Republican opponents of the bill continued to argue against it right up until the vote was counted.

"We have failed to listen to America," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said.

"Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability -- without backroom deals, struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?" Boehner questioned. "Hell no, you can't."

"Some say we're making history. I say we're breaking history," Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said.

What has been an arduous journey for the health care bill is anything but over. Once the president signs the bill, the Senate has to pass the "fixes" and the fight in that chamber has already begun.

"We shouldn't do a victory dance ... until the reconciliation bill is signed," Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said on MSNBC.

House Democrats, distrustful of their Senate counterparts, wanted iron-clad assurances that the Senate would pass the bill with the "fixes" the House Democrats had proposed, before they themselves voted on it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., delivered that assurance to House Democrats on Saturday, telling them that 51 senators had signed a letter promising to make "fixes" to the Senate bill that House members want. The names of those senators were not revealed to the press.

After the House vote, Reid released a statement promising to complete the work on "this historic effort."

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