News / Health

Democrats Say They Are '24 Hours Away' from Passing Historic Health Care Reform

Cindy Saine

President Barack Obama gave an impassioned plea to Democratic members of the House of Representatives to vote their conscience and pass sweeping health care reform legislation to help ordinary Americans.  Democratic leaders say they are now confident they have the 216 votes needed to pass the bill in the House in a vote expected late Sunday.  

House Democrats were exuberant on Saturday when they welcomed President Obama to the Capitol Visitor Center with loud shouts and cheers.  

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer cited a long list of former U.S. presidents, including former Presidents Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt who said they wanted all Americans to have access to quality, affordable health care.  But he said President Obama was going to be the one to finally get health care reform done. "All the presidents I just quoted tried to get something done, and it was not done.  On Sunday, tomorrow, we will do it," he said.

President Obama also expressed assurance that after a year of debate in Congress, against united Republican opposition, and after much wrangling among Democrats, the time for action has come. "It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow," he said.

Both the House and the Senate passed separate versions of health care reform legislation late last year, but they need to send one bill to President Obama to sign into law.  House leaders announced Saturday that they are going to hold a direct vote on the Senate bill, and another vote on a package of corrections to it.

Mr. Obama said though the bill is not perfect, it will extend health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured, and stop private insurance companies from dropping customers who have serious illnesses or from excluding children with pre-existing medical conditions. "This is the toughest insurance reforms in history. We are making sure that the system of private insurance works for ordinary families," he said.

The president has made health care reform the cornerstone of his domestic agenda, taking a significant political risk.  But he told lawmakers that the vote is not about him, and asked them to remember why they ever got into politics in the first place. "Don't do it for me.  Don't do it for the Democratic Party, do it for the American people.  They are the ones who are looking for action right now," he said.

Republicans remain firmly against the legislation.  The top House Republican, Minority Leader John Boehner, said in the party's weekly radio and Internet address the American people have made it clear that they also oppose the bill. "We have seen standing-room only crowds at town meetings, rallies in towns and cities across the country, and now jammed phone lines on Capitol Hill, all of this coming from citizens yelling 'Stop!' at the top of their lungs," he said.

Opinion polls show the American people are sharply divided over the Democrats' reform bill, and the insurance industry has lobbied hard against it with negative TV and print media ads.

Outside the Capitol, hundreds of protesters voiced their angry opposition to the Democrats' reform bill, with many carrying signs that said "Kill the bill!"  Some booed at President Obama's motorcade as it drove by and yelled at lawmakers as they entered the Capitol, "You work for us!"

If the House passes the Senate bill and a corrections-package on Sunday, a corresponding corrections package will go to the Senate, where it could be approved by a simple 51 vote majority.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid also had good news for the House Democrats and President Obama Saturday. "We need a simple majority to make the good law even better. So I am happy to announce I have the commitment of a significant majority of the U.S. Senate to make that good law even better," he said.

Republicans have warned wavering Democrats that voters may punish them for a vote for health care reform in congressional elections in November. But President Obama said it would be harder for Republicans to, in his words, mischaracterize the bill when it becomes law and people see that nothing terrible happens to them, and many are actually helped.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs