Health Care Bill Aftermath: Rep. Patrick Kennedy Hails Dad's Dream, Sen. John McCain Sees 'Heavy Price'

Sen. John McCain vows Dems will pay "a very heavy price" in upcoming elections.

ByHUMA KHAN via logo
March 22, 2010, 6:52 AM

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2010— -- An emotional Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., hailed the passage of the $938 billion health care bill as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., vowed that Republicans would continue to fight the legislation that passed the House Sunday night without a single Republican vote.

Kennedy said the health care bill fulfills the legacy of his father, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, and completes what he had been fighting for throughout his career.

"He always believed our country was about expanding opportunity for more and more Americans, and I believe this, as he said, was the unfinished business of Americans," Kennedy told "Good Morning America." "This is a program for the middle class. Too often in America, they're the ones who are left out. ... Not now."

Choking up as he hailed the work of President Obama, Kennedy said, "I am so honored that my father supported this president in the belief this president was going to make a commitment and stand by it, and this president stood by it. I salute President Obama. He's been the president and even more than my father could've ever imagined."

After nearly a year of debate and negotiations, the House of Representatives passed the sweeping health care bill with a 219-212 vote, securing a significant victory for Obama, who lobbied hard for the controversial legislation.

Despite their loss, the Republicans aren't backing down. McCain today said the GOP would challenge the health care bill's constitutionality and seek to repeal it.

"For the first time in history, we will have a major reform enacted without a bipartisan support for doing so," McCain said on "GMA." "We'll challenge it every place we can. ... We'll fight everywhere."

McCain also warned that the bill could have dire consequences for Democrats in the upcoming mid-term election.

"With all this euphoria that's going on, this inside-the-Beltway champagne toasting and all that, outside the Beltway the American people are very angry. And they don't like it, and we're going to try to repeal this, and we're going to have a very spirited campaign coming up between now and November, and there will be a very heavy price to pay for it," he said.

"I believe the will of the people is reflected sooner or later in the makeup of the government," McCain said.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted the bill would cost $938 billion -- mainly through a mix of tax increases and reduction in Medicare spending -- and would reduce the federal deficit by $142 billion in the first 10 years. The health care bill would extend insurance to 32 million more Americans.

Some components of the health care bill will take effect right away, including helping older Americans pay for prescription drugs and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions.

Individuals with incomes of $200,000 or higher, and families with a combined income of $250,000 or higher, will see an increase in taxes.

By 2014, most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance or face penalties. Small businesses and the uninsured would have the option of shopping for coverage in health insurance exchanges, a marketplace in which people could shop for and compare insurance plans. Those exchanges would be implemented in 2014. The bill greatly expands Medicaid and subsidies to the poor. Insurance companies would not be able to place lifetime caps or deny coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions.

"I think American people are going to be happy to know that when they spend their health care dollar it's going to go to medical expenditures not advertising, not CEO compensation," Kennedy said.

Obama watched the health care vote Sunday in the White House's Roosevelt Room with Vice President Joe Biden, chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and some 40 staffers. Afterward, he hailed the bill as a victory for the American people.

"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.

After the president spoke to the nation, he joined dozens of staffers where he toasted them with champagne and club soda for their accomplishment.

"This is what we came here to do," he told them.

The president will likely sign the bill in a ceremony tomorrow, but the battle isn't yet over. The Senate still needs to pass "fixes" to the bill negotiated with the House and that process could take weeks if not months.

House Passes Health Care Bill

On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders did a victory lap event and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the bill as a historic achievement.

"It is with great pride and great humility that we undertook this great act of patriotism that occurred on the floor of the house," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

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

Democrats count the health care bill among such landmark legislation as Social Security and even the Civil Rights Act. The one difference, however, is that all those major legislations had bipartisan support.

The vote was certain after the House Democratic leadership finalized a deal Sunday 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 elective abortion.

Democrats chanted "Yes, We Can" moments before the vote was clinched.

But it was not easy getting there. Republicans opposed the bill until the very end. Not one voted for the controversial legislation.

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

The floor debate was raucous as hecklers from the House gallery interrupted the debate several times. At one point, a lawmaker from the Republican side yelled "baby killer," referring to the anti-abortion controversy.

Hundreds of protestors descended on Capitol Hill over the weekend and stormed the halls of Congress, chanting "Kill the Bill!" Some hurled racial and homophobic epithets, and one even spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is openly gay, said he encountered homophobic comments as he walked through a crowd of protestors Saturday in the halls of Congress.

However, rather than the overwhelming public opposition that GOP leaders contend, Americans' views on health care reform are mixed. A poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation Friday and conducted in March, found that 46 percent supported the legislation while 42 percent opposed it. Forty-two percent said it's time to take a vote, while 36 percent said they wanted lawmakers to "go back to the drawing board and start over again." The rest, two in 10, wanted Congress to drop it entirely.

Next week, the White House will begin selling the elements of the bill that will take effect soonest including the consumer protections from insurance company abuses, small business tax credits, and closing the "hole" in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.

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