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US Lawmakers React to Historic Health Care Vote

  • Cindy Saine

A day after the House of Representatives passed sweeping health-care reform legislation, President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats are basking in the glow of a landmark political victory. Republicans have maintained a solid front of opposition to the health-care reform bill, and are now vowing to work to repeal it, if it becomes law.

One of the more emotional reactions to passage of health-care reform legislation came from the son of the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, who made universal health care for all Americans the cause of his life.

Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island told ABC news his father would have been proud of President Obama.

"I salute President Obama," said Patrick Kennedy. "He has been the president, and even more, than my father could have ever imagined."

Late Sunday, the House passed the Senate version of the bill and a companion measure that would make some changes to the Senate version. President Obama is expected to sign the House version into law Tuesday, and then the Senate will then take up the corrections package, which can be passed by a simple 51-vote majority. That vote is expected later this week.

But even though the bill is not yet through the Senate, prominent Republicans wasted no time in saying they will fight to repeal it if is passed.

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina introduced a bill early Monday calling for repeal of the bill, calling it an "arrogant power grab."

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who ran unsuccessfully against Barack Obama for the White House in 2008, told ABC news that Republicans would use the health care issue against Democrats in the November congressional elections.

"The American people are very angry," said John McCain. "And they do not like it and we are going to try to repeal this, and we are 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."

Speaking last night after the bill passed, President Obama said Americans will soon realize that Republicans' claims that the bill will lead to "socialized medicine" are not true, and reminded them that he has delivered on his campaign promise of bringing "change" to the country.

"So this is not radical reform," said President Obama. "But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like."

The final version of health care reform will cost $940 billion over 10 years, and will extend health insurance to about 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

Starting in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny health-insurance coverage to anyone with a pre-existing medical condition, starting this year they will not be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

The uninsured and self-employed will be able to purchase health insurance through state-based exchanges, with subsidies available to those unable to pay.

During the sometimes raucous debate ahead of last night's votes, Republican lawmakers again and again characterized the Democratic legislation as a government takeover of health care, and said the American people oppose it. Republican Representative Dave Camp of Michigan put it like this:

"The American people have spoken," said Dave Camp. "They do not want the tentacles of the federal government reaching into their lives and controlling their personal health care decisions. Yet that is exactly what will happen under the Democrats' health-care bill."

Democratic Representative John Lewis of Georgia said it is time to make quality health care a right for all Americans and not a privilege.

"There are those who have told us to wait, they have told us to be patient," said John Lewis. "We cannot wait, we cannot be patient. The American people need health care, and they need it now."

Opinion polls show that Americans are sharply divided over the Democratic push for health-care reform. The next weeks and months will tell whether Republican predictions that the huge legislative victory for Democrats will turn out be a political liability in the upcoming fall Congressional elections.