The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system, with majority Democrats handing President Barack Obama a victory on his top domestic priority.
The House approved a Senate-passed health care bill late Sunday by a vote of 219 to 212. Minority Republicans were unanimous in opposition, and 34 Democrats joined them in voting no. Two-hundred-sixteen votes were needed for passage.
Mr. Obama praised the vote. Speaking at the White House he said it answers the prayers of the uninsured. The legislation is intended to make health insurance available to 32 million Americans who do not have it.
Critics say the changes will drive up health care costs and increase government intrusion into medical decisions.
President Obama said the House bill will not fix everything that ails the U.S. health care system, but moves the country in the right direction.
He secured a majority for the bill by doing a deal with several Democrats who were concerned it would encourage abortions. Mr. Obama satisfied the group by issuing an executive order re-affirming current restrictions on federal funding of the practice.
The House also approved a separate bill of changes to the Senate-passed measure. The changes will be considered by the Senate under rules that require only a simple majority of the 100-seat assembly for passage. Democrats control 59 seats.
President Obama is expected to sign the House-approved health care bill into law in the coming days. The Senate is expected to take a longer period to debate the changes approved by the House in the separate legislation.