WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Democratic-controlled Congress has approved historic legislation extending health care to tens of millions of Americans who lack it and cracking down on insurance company abuses.
The vote in the U.S. House was 219-212. Republicans were unanimously opposed.
All of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation opposed the legislation. They say they were worried about unfunded mandates, and some go as far to call it unconstitutional.
The final hours before the historic vote, which featured fiery debate on the house floor and even more fiery protests outside, were characterized as intense by Oklahoma lawmakers.
"It’s pretty wild down here. It’s the most hectic and craziest I’ve ever seen it since I’ve been in Congress," said Rep. John Sullivan — (R) Oklahoma.
"This is probably the most tense I’ve ever seen it on both sides, both Democrats and Republicans," said Rep. Dan Boren — (D) Oklahoma.
As the Democrats attempted to garner enough last-minute votes to ensure passage of the bill, they did so without any help from the Sooner State delegation.
Dan Boren, the lone Democrat representing Oklahoma in DC, has opposed these reforms since they first surfaced last summer, and says he simply couldn’t vote for them.
"There’s really not anything that will change my mind. Over 80 percent of my constituents are very opposed to this legislation," said Boren.
Those sentiments were echoed by other representatives.
Congressman Frank Lucas said in a statement, "This bill is extremely unpopular with the American people, who have strongly voiced their opposition to this legislation over the last year. I am dismayed by the audacity of the Democratic leadership and their attempt to bypass the American people and subvert the will of the majority."
Other Oklahoma congressmen believe the constitutionality of the reforms will be challenged, and say Sunday’s vote will have consequences.
"The Democrats like to say, ‘well you know, we have the votes, we have the votes.’ Well, the people have the votes and they’ll be able to vote in November, and we’ll see what happens," said Sullivan.
An idea proposed by Senator Tom Coburn, and endorsed by President Obama, was left out of the final version of the bill. Coburn had wanted to send investigators to hospitals disguised as patients to search for waste, fraud and abuse.
Congressman John Sullivan issued the following statement:
"This is a sad day in the history of the United States Congress. The American people were clear that they did not want this government takeover of our healthcare system, yet Speaker Pelosi and her liberal allies in Congress didn’t seem to care. They twisted arms and cut backroom deals until they had the votes to pass it anyways – I got news for them, the American people will have the votes to hold every single one of them accountable in November. This fight is not yet over – my Republican colleagues and I will use every means at our disposal to challenge, and ultimately repeal this unconstitutional bill."
U.S. Congressman Tom Cole issued the following statement:
"Along with an overwhelming majority of Oklahomans, I strongly oppose the government takeover of health care and the arrogant way it’s been forced upon the American people. This deeply flawed legislation raises taxes, expands government control and kills job creation, but it fails to cut health care costs or meaningfully reform the insurance system.
"The bill approved by House Democrats today does not deserve the name ‘health care reform.’ This $1.2 trillion monstrosity increases taxes by $569 billion and cuts Medicare by $523 billion. Remaking one-sixth of our economy in such a radical way could have disastrous long-term consequences for both our medical system and financial security. It’s nothing short of irresponsible to embark on such a massive government spending spree during a time of 9.7 percent unemployment and record deficits.
"The divisive process by which President Obama and Speaker Pelosi have rammed this bill through Congress is almost as misguided as the legislation itself. Over the adamant objections of the American people, the Democratic majority has pursued their health care takeover through extraordinary exploitation of parliamentary rules, closed-door negotiations, budget gimmicks, and vote-buying kickbacks that have further undermined Americans’ confidence in the legislative process.
"If this legislation is implemented, it will weaken our health care system and bring the government closer to bankruptcy. As the Senate begins consideration of the bill, I urge my congressional colleagues and the Obama administration to listen to the American people and scrap this government health care takeover."
U.S. Congressman Dan Boren issued the following statement:
"Today I emphatically cast my vote against President Obama’s health care plan. Over the last six months, I’ve spoken with thousands of Oklahomans about the President’s reform proposal and the common thread among all of those conversations has been an unwavering opposition to it.
Since the beginning of this ill-timed debate, I’ve raised objections to a host of proposals contained within the legislation. First, there are cuts to vital services for seniors on Medicare. Second, it raises taxes on individuals and families, and third it imposes job killing mandates on small businesses. How could anyone think that these are the right steps during a time of record unemployment and recession?
During my career in public service, I have never seen a single issue galvanize my district’s voters more than this health care reform proposal. From my first town hall in August of 2009, which drew audiences exceeding 1,000, to the constant phone calls, letters, faxes, and emails to my Washington and Oklahoma offices, the desire for me to oppose this health care proposal has been very clear.
For the last 18 months I have said repeatedly that the focus of Congress should be on job creation and getting our economy moving again; not on creating a brand new entitlement program that we simply cannot afford. This debate has been distracting and divisive, and it has clearly eroded the American people’s confidence in Congress to do its job."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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