Speak Softly and Carry an Oversized Gavel

 The House of Representatives passes healthcare.  Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House, presided over the often fractious but historic healthcare reform overhaul vote with the help of an oversized gavel borrowed from Representative John Dingell (D-MI), who chaired the passage of the Medicare bill 45 years ago.  “A treasure in the Dingell family that was used in the enactment of the Medicare law,” Pelosi said.  “I will use it this evening when we cast a very successful vote for this important legislation.  This has been a complete team effort, not only a team effort, a partnership with our leadership and every member of our caucus and we look forward to making this historic day known to the American people.”

The late Sunday evening passage of the healthcare reform bill by a thin 219 – 212 margin was described by President Barack Obama as “This is what change looks like.”  All 178 House Republicans and 34 Democrats voted against the legislation, which ultimately will cover 32,000,000 Americans who currently lack healthcare coverage.  Also on Sunday, the House passed a package of “fixes” that will resolve some of the conflicts between the House and Senate versions of the healthcare bill.  Senate Democrats plan to pass the fixes under budget reconciliation, which requires a simple majority vote.

The president, who plans to sign the bill, said “Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and America’s small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.”

“This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century,” said Representative James E. Clyburn (D-SC), the third highest ranking Democrat in the House.

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