"This Is What Change Looks Like": Congress Passes Health-Care Reform
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Stupak, for months, held the line on his position, and it was his amendment to the original House bill that inspired the anti-abortion provision in the Senate bill that was negotiated by Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Stupak, backed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, contended that Nelson's provision did not, in the end, actually prevent federal dollars from funding abortions, he said, even though it demands that women receiving federal subsidies for health insurance write a second check to their insurer for policies purchased through the government-administered exchanges for any portion of their policy that covers abortion.
For all his trouble, in the end, Stupak earned not only the fury of many of his Democratic colleagues, but also the ire of the Republicans who had cheered him on as a man of principle when his demands appeared to be gumming up the works as House leaders tried to move the bill forward.
Shaking hands along a veritable rope line of Tea Party protesters, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., was asked about Stupak's change of heart. "Just goes to show you," he said, "there's no such thing as a pro-life Democrat."
"When you go in," he added, "and your first vote is for Pelosi, she drives an agenda that is abortion."
Later, inside the chamber, after Democrats succeeded in passing the Senate version of health-care reform, Republicans tried to pass a "motion to recommit" that would have added the language of Stupak's original amendment to the Senate bill in the reconciliation process. In truth, it was intended as no favor to Stupak, but rather a poison pill that would either prevent progressive Democrats from voting for the reconciliation bill, or create a problem with the Senate parliamentarian, since abortion policy doesn't qualify for the reconciliation process.
Stupak rose to oppose the motion. "Baby-killer!" a Republican member shouted out -- though it remained unclear which one.
And a Rowdy Time Was Had By All
As if health-care reform didin't provide enough drama on its own -- what with the Tea Party crowd occupying Capitol Hill for the better part of the week, Sunday also brought some 200,000 to the nation's capital for a march in support of immigration reform, a cause adamantly opposed by most Tea Partiers, who embrace the nativist cause. At several points, arguments grew heated between immigration reformers and Tea Paritiers, as well as between the Tea Partiers and a sizeable contingent of demonstrators who turned out in support of the bill.
Inside the chamber, the debate was frequently interrupted by cheers and boos, in contradiction to the rules of House decorum, making the chamber seem more like a session of British Parliament -- or the stands in a British soccer match -- than a session of Congress.
By the end of the vote, with Republican dreams of "breaking" Obama vanquished for the time being, Minority Leader John Boehner seemed on the verge of losing control as he gave his closing speech before the vote for final passage.
In what is already being called the "Hell, No!" speech, Boehner accused the Democrats of ignoring the will of the people, and essentially of lying about the provisions of the bill.
"Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen," Boehner said.
"Do you really believe that if you like the health plan that you have that you can keep it?" he asked. "No you can't!"
He then asked Democrats if they had actually read the bill, the manager's amendment and the reconciliation bill. "Hell, no, you haven't!" he shouted.