News / USA

US Congress Passes Health Care 'Fixes'

The U.S. Congress has passed legislation to fix problems with the health care reform bill President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday. The corrections measure cleared both the House and Senate Thursday.

With Vice President Joe Biden presiding, the Senate cast its last vote related to health care reform. "On this vote, there are 56 yeas, 43 nays.  The bill as amended is passed," he said.

Within a few hours, the House followed suit, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing the results. "The yeas are 220, the nays are 207.  The motion is adopted!," she said.

This was the epilogue of the health care reform story.

Two days after President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law, Congress wrapped up work on a set of "fixes" to the legislation.

Republicans continued their unified opposition until the end.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee spoke for members of his party. "The president and the majority have said this is an historic occasion.  I agree.  But I agree, as do most of us, that it is an historic mistake," he said.

Senate Republicans had hoped to kill the corrections legislation with dozens of amendments.  In the end, they were able to delay, but not stop, the bill.

They uncovered two clauses in the bill that run counter to Congressional budget rules.  The bipartisan Senate parliamentarian agreed and the language was removed, necessitating the unexpected House vote on the bill.

The extra step did not bother the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee - Democrat Max Baucus of Montana.

Baucus, who worked for more than a year on the health care reform initiative, said he was proud of the results. "This is truly monumental - this health care reform that we are passing.  It is so sweeping - affecting every single American," he said.

But his Republican colleague - Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - charged that the whole process related to drafting and passing health care legislation was fatally flawed.  "It was done behind closed doors. It was not transparent. It embraced every sleazy approach to government that both Democrats and Republicans need to run away from," he said.

Graham has worked with Senate Democrats in the past to craft bipartisan legislation.   But he said the tactics used by Democrats to pass the health care package - in his words - poisoned the well.   He predicted that the political bitterness that was so apparent during that fight, will prevent progress on other important issues - from climate change to immigration.

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