Moments ago, the House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act by a vote of 220-215, with one Republican — Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) — voting for the measure. Once the bill reached the needed threshold of 218 votes, the chamber erupted in applause. Members excitedly counted down the last few seconds of the vote. Watch it:
At the “House Call” tea party protest on Capitol Hill this week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) pledged to the right-wing activists: “Be assured not one Republican will vote for this bill.” Cao’s vote must have surprised Cantor.
Cao has previously been touted by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) once as “the future” of the GOP. The White House had reportedly “been in constant contact” with him prior to the vote. “Rahm is going all in to get him,” one aide told Roll Call, referring to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
The House also approved, by a vote of 240-194, an amendment introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), which imposed tighter restrictions on abortion coverage. A GOP substitute failed in a vote of 178-258, with a single Republican, Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) voting against the legislation.
Moments before the vote, during an interview on Fox News, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said Republicans will “absolutely” present a more substantive alternative.
Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America. Now the United States Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will, and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.
Sources tell the Wonk Room that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his 40 pro-life Democratic colleagues successfully won debate for a restrictive abortion amendment on the House floor by moving the goal posts on an earlier agreement.
Stupak had agreed to keep the amendment from the floor if it received a hearing in the rules committee. But, once the Conference of Catholic Bishops refused to endorse the bill unless the amendment was accepted, Stupak and his colleagues demanded a vote on the floor and threatened to derail the bill. Unable to muster enough opposition to Stupak’s ‘gang of 40,’ the Democratic majority agreed to move the the amendment to the floor and vote for the full bill if the amendment passed.The Conference of Catholic Bishops has since endorsed the bill and House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) will all vote “yes” on the Stupak amendment.
Today, during the Democratic press conference that followed the caucus’ meeting with the President, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she recommended that the Stupak amendment be voted on the floor. The amendment is expected to pass.
Huffington Post is reporting that Stupak “told reporters that regardless of the outcome of the vote on his amendment, which would severely restrict coverage of reproductive health issues, the House health care bill is headed for passage. He is whipping support for the amendment and estimates he has 225 votes. If he’s right, the amendment will pass, and he predicted enough pro-life Democrats will vote yes on the final bill to put it over the top. But if it fails, he said, enough pro-lifers — ten to 15, he said — will have been satisfied to have had their vote on the floor that they’ll turn around and support the final bill anyway. Picking up ten to 15 votes would give the bill a comfortable margin for passage.”
During yesterday’s all-night marathon hearing before the House Rules Committee to consider which amendments would be introduced during floor debate of the House health care bill, the Committee agreed to allow the full House to vote on Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-MI) amendment to effectively ban plans in the exchange from covering abortion services. The floor will debate the amendment on the House floor for 20 minutes.
Democrats have been trying to broker a compromise on abortion coverage by offering up Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) less restrictive amendment to segregate public funds from abortion funding and hire “a private contractor to pay abortion providers, thus avoiding direct federal payments.” But that agreement “fell apart,” Stupak reported.
“We came to the point where we actually an agreement tonight, but unfortunately it fell apart. So that’s why we had to scramble to be here. I regret that the agreement fell apart, I think everyone meant well and I’m not trying to place blame,” he said at midnight:
First, our amendment does not prevent any private insurer from selling a policy which covers abortion. This ensures that those who want abortion coverage have access to it without forcing anyone or anyone else to pay for another one’s abortion with their tax dollars of with their private funds. Second, our amendment does not prevent any individual from purchasing a plan that covers abortion as long as their coverage is not subsidized with affordability credits….Our amendment does not prevent an insurer participating in the Exchange from selling health plans in the Exchange…Our amendment simply applies the current law, Hyde Amendment to the public health insurance option and the private policies purchased using affordability credits.
But Stupak is misrepresenting the House legislation and the existing federal restrictions on abortion funding. Currently, the House bill contains what’s called the Capps Amendment — a compromise that maintains Hyde Amendment restrictions. The arrangement protects Hyde by specifying that subsidy dollars could only be used to abort pregnancies that threaten the life of mother or result from rape or incest (Hyde allows for this). Other kinds of abortions would have to be funded with private premiums. The provision also requires that at least one plan in each market area offer abortion services and one plan not. No abortion services—even those allowed by the Hyde Amendment — can be mandated as part of a minimum benefits package.
Stupak and his allies want to go beyond Hyde. Under their amendment, women who purchase comprehensive private insurance packages — that include abortion services — would have to pay for the entire cost of the package (even if they qualify for subsidies).
They’re arguing that the current firewall between public and private money is inadequate. If a woman uses federal subsidies to pay for a basic benefit, she would have more private money available to fund her abortion, they claim. Or, alternatively, “premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars.” It’s the equivalent of arguing that women who receive abortions should not use public buses or highways to travel to the abortion clinic.
The amendment won the endorsement of the Conference of Catholic Bishops but sparked criticism from several pro-choice groups. “This amendment would violate the spirit of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for all, by creating a two-tiered system that would punish women, particularly those with low and modest incomes,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a late-night release. “Women won’t stand for legislation that takes away their current benefits and leaves them worse off after health care reform than they are today.