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House Passes Sweeping Health Care Reform Bill

Last night, House Democrats passed comprehensive health care reform legislation. After decades of fruitless struggle, the U.S. is finally poised to extend insurance to 32 million people and curb the worst abuses of the health insurance industry. President Obama is expected to sign the bill tomorrow. Whereupon, the Senate will use budget reconciliation to pass a series of "fixes" approved by the House last night in a separate vote.

The national pro-choice groups are up in arms because the President placated anti-choice zealot Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) by signing an executive order reaffirming that no federal funds will go for elective abortions.

Amanda Marcotte summed up the politics of the Stupak compromise perfectly:

1) That this is some impressive political jujitsu.  Having the President reaffirm what was already the law of the land in order to secure a vote from Bart Stupak, who has clearly never read the bill he’s so fucking concerned about.  Did they come up with this brilliant plan after Stupak has made it clear that his contempt for women’s opinions applies even to nuns?  Is it possible that Nancy Pelosi called up Obama and said, “Look, I’ve been telling him and Sebelius has been telling him there’s no federal funding for abortion in this bill.  He apparently needs to hear it from a man, so can you give us a hand?”

The president might as well have signed an executive order banning federal funds for vajazzling, the option was never on the table. It costs nothing to repeat the obvious. At first it seemed like Democrats might have to make substantive concessions to Stupak in order to placate him. Then Stupak shot himself in the foot by publicly dissing nuns. His vaunted coalition of anti-choice Democrats began to fray as more and more mainstream Catholic organizations came out in favor of reform.

The right wing is howling about the radicalism of Obamacare, but the end result is actually pretty tame. The final bill leaves private insurers firmly in charge, bolstered by healthy public subsidies. There's no public option, of course. The bill will crack down on the worst abuses of the insurance industry, such as lifetime benefit caps and rescission. The bill is not perfect, or even particularly progressive, but it represents a major step towards universal coverage.

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