House lawmakers on March 21 passed a massive health care reform bill in a 219-212 vote, the culmination of months of heated debate in Washington, D.C. and around the country.
House Democrats passed the bill after a group of pro-life party members reached a separate agreement with the White House to preserve a ban on the spending of federal dollars to support abortion. The health care bill was passed by the Senate in December.
President Obama was set to make a brief statement in the East Room of the White House immediately following the House vote on the bill. Obama is expected to sign the health care reform bill into law as soon as March 22, though a follow-up bill making numerous changes must still pass both chambers of Congress.
The bill would extend insurance coverage to 32 million Americans and ban insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. Republicans said the bill would expand the federal government’s control of the health care industry and raise taxes by $1 trillion.
Opponents of the bill converged on Washington throughout the weekend, sparking isolated incidents throughout the weekend. A number of protestors dramatized their opposition outside the Capitol, and one man in the House visitor’s gallery yelled “kill the bill” before being escorted out, according to an Associated Press report.
CNN reported that several Democrats were also heckled with racial and anti-gay slurs on March 20. Three African-American lawmakers said protestors yelled racist comments at them, openly gay Democrat Barney Frank said demonstrators made anti-homosexual remarks to him.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called those remarks “reprehensible,” but said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” not to “let a few isolated incidents get in the way of the fact that millions of Americans are scared to death, and millions of Americans want no part of this growing size of government.”
Passage of the bill marks a major achievement for the Obama administration and the Democratic party, but political analysts said lawmakers who supported the bill may pay the price in this November’s mid-term elections. CNN reported that Democratic leadership had begun lining up volunteers and fundraisers to support party members in closely-contested districts.