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House passes health care bill on close vote

In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous.

The 220-215 vote cleared the way for the Senate to begin a long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.

A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later — and Obama issued a statement saying, “I look forward to signing it into law by the end of the year.”

“It provides coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It offers everyone, regardless of health or income, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will have access to affordable health care when they need it,” said Rep. John Dingell, the 83-year-old Michigan lawmaker who has introduced national health insurance in every Congress since succeeding his father in 1955.

In the run-up to a final vote, conservatives from the two political parties joined forces to impose tough new restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance policies to be sold to many individuals and small groups. They prevailed on a roll call of 240-194.

From the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a statement saying, “We realize the strong will for reform that exists, and we are energized that we stand closer than ever to reforming our broken health insurance system.”

In his written statement, Obama praised the House’s action and said, “now the United State Senate must follow suit and pass its version of the legislation. I am absolutely confident it will.”

Nearly unanimous in their opposition, minority Republicans cataloged their objections across hours of debate on the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion legislation.

United in opposition, minority Republicans cataloged their objections across hours of debate on the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion legislation.

“We are going to have a complete government takeover of our health care system faster than you can say, `this is making me sick,’” jabbed Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., adding that Democrats were intent on passing “a jobs-killing, tax-hiking, deficit-exploding” bill.

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