Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Awaiting Critical Vote on Health Care; Boehner, Pelosi make final appeal on Health Care; House Passes Health Care Reform

Aired March 21, 2010 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And once that has passed, the separate reconciliation bill, those changes in the Senate version, the fixes, as they call it, that will be voted on. That will pass as well. That will be sent to the Senate this evening. We'll wrap up here in Washington with the president of the United States. He will be speaking in the east room of the White House. We'll have all of this live. We're not going away. Remember, a live "LARRY KING LIVE" at midnight, wrapping up all of the day's historic events.

We're going to watch every second of this as it unfolds. Remember, we're getting ready for Boehner and Pelosi. That's coming up, we believe, in the next few moments. John king is here, Gloria Borger, together with the Best Political Team on Television.

You know, it's been a long day. I've been here since 1:00 Eastern Time in the afternoon. You've been here even longer, because I saw you on "State of the Union" earlier today with Candy Crowley. But it's one of those days, a lot of us will remember for a long time to come. And I think it's significant, it's been a debate at least one year in the making. Some would say 70 years in the making.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly goes back many, many presidents. You and I went through this back in the Clinton White House days when we worked together. We're the Best Medical Team in Television, too. We have Dr. Gupta with us tonight. Look, this is why we do this for a living. And these are the days we rally for, despite the long hours. Because this is a critical, consequential, hugely important, personal policy issue for everybody in America.

It's not just the Democrats versus the Republicans, Obama versus the Republicans, this is an issue, no matter what your position is on it. And a lot of people are confused about the details and understandably so. It is so important to the country. It is a landmark, historic vote that will happen soon. It also happens to be a giant political issue and a political divide in the country that will divide and it will drive the political contests all across in this monumental midterm election year. So this is why we're here.

And I hope, as we focus on the politics of this, we explain what's in the legislation, what comes next, and the varied ways it will impact people's lives. Because it will impact some people and many people, as soon as the president signs it, a lot of the other changes take years to kick in. And there'll be a huge fight. This is the end of one chapter and the beginning of a fight over, can we really afford it; are the deficit numbers real; what's going to happen when the insurance companies start dealing with these rules? Transitions are hard, no matter what it is.

BLITZER: And who's going to pay more taxes. Because some of this, you know, bring 32 million people into the health insurance system. It's going to cost money, and some of that money will come from an increase in taxes on people, individuals making $200,000 a year and couples making $250,000 a year.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. So it's going to cost more. And of course, there's going to be the law of unintended consequences. This is such a huge piece of legislation. Now you know why we don't have huge pieces of legislation very often, because they are so complicated. They are so difficult to get done. And because people aren't sure, sure we have the Congressional Budget Office estimates, but nobody can tell you what something is going to cost ten years out, or something is going to cost 20 years out.

So when people look at this bill, you know, the Democrats are betting that when people look at this bill, in the long-term, they're going to say, you know what, it was good for me. It did help me. It did help my family. It did help my children. And what you heard Republicans in this debate say loud and clear is that the Democrats think they know what's good for you. The Democrats are elitist here. They're telling you what's good for you, and you know best what's good for you, and you don't like this bill, and we guarantee you that you're not going to like it any better after it's passed. So difference -- you know, different gambles on history here. Very big gamble for the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: And David Gergen, the difference between this major piece of social legislation and other major pieces of legislation, whether Medicare, or social security, or the civil rights legislation is this will pass without any Republican support whatsoever. Hold this thought for a second, because John Boehner, the Republican leader, is speaking.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman may proceed.

JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I rise tonight with a sad and heavy heart. Today, we should be standing together, reflecting on a year of bipartisanship and working to answer our country's call and their challenge to address the rising cost of health insurance in our country.

Today, this body, this institution, enshrined in the first article of the constitution by our founding fathers as a sign of the importance they placed on this House. We should be looking with pride on this legislation and our work. But it is not so. No, today we're standing here looking at a health care bill that no one in this body believes is satisfactory. Today we stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honor that this House was held in by our fellow citizens. And we all know why it is so. We have failed to listen to America. And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents. And when we fail to reflect that will, we fail ourselves and we fail our country.

Look at this bill. Ask yourself, do you really believe that if you like the health plan that you have that you can keep it? No, you can't. In this economy -- (GAVEL BANGS)

Order!

BOEHNER: you can't say this. In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate needs for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, to create bureaucracies, and burden every job creator in our land?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: The answer is no. Can you go home and tell your senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will not limit their access to doctors or further weaken the program instead of strengthening it? No, you cannot.

Can you go home and tell your constituents with confidence that this bill respects the sanctity of all human life, and that it won't allow for taxpayer funding of abortions for the first time in 30 years?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: No, you cannot. And look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: With transparency and accountability?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: Without backroom deals and struck behind closed doors? Hidden from the people? Hell no, you can't!

Have you read the bill?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: Have you read the reconciliation bill?!

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: Have you read the manager's amendment?! Hell, no, you haven't!

CROWD: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, Mr. Speaker!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring them to order. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both sides would do well to remember the dignity of the House.

BOEHNER: Mr. Speaker, in a few minutes, we'll cast some of the most consequential votes that any of us will ever cast in this chamber. The decision we make will affect every man, woman, and child in this nation for generations to come. If we're going to vote to defy the will of the American people, then we ought to have the courage to stand before them and announce our votes one at a time.

(APPLAUSE)

BOEHNER: I sent a letter to the speaker this week, asking that the call of the roll be ordered for this vote. And Madam Speaker, I ask you, will you, in the interest of this institution, grant my request?

Will you, Mr. Speaker, grant my request that they have a call of the roll?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely no.

BOEHNER: Mr. Speaker --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rhetorical question --

BOEHNER: Will you grant my request that we have a call of the roll?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under clause 2-a of rule 20, a record vote is conducted by electronic device, unless the speaker directs otherwise.

BOEHNER: And you, Mr. Speaker, will you grant that request?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair will decide at the time the request is made. This is not it.

(LAUGHTER)

BOEHNER: My colleagues, my colleagues, this is the people's House. When we came here, we each swore an oath to uphold and abide by the constitutions as representatives of the people. But the process here is broken. The institution is broken. And as a result, this bill is not what the American people need, nor what our constituents want.

Americans are out there making sacrifices and struggling to build a better future for their kids. And over the last year, as the damned the torpedoes outline of this legislation became more clear, millions of Americans lifted their voices, and many for the first time, asking us to slow down, not to try to cram through more than this system could handle. Not to spend money that we didn't have. In this time of recession, they wanted us to focus on jobs, not more spending, not more government, and certainly not more taxes.

But what they see today frightens them. They're frightened because they don't know what comes next. They are disgusted because what they see is one political party closing out another from what should be a national solution. And they're angry.

They're angry that no matter how they engage in this debate, this body moves forward against their will. Shame on us. Shame on this body. Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Around this chamber, looking upon us are the law givers. From Moses to Giath to Blackstone to Thomas Jefferson. By our actions today, we disgrace their values. We break there the ties of history in this chamber, and we break our trust with America. When I handed the speaker the gavel in 2007, I said this -- this is the people's House. In a moment a majority forgets it, it starts writing itself to a ticket to minority status.

(APPLAUSE)

If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last draw for the American people. And in a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it. And if we defy the will of our fellow citizens and pass this bill, we're going to be held to account by those who have placed us in their trust. We will have shattered those bonds of trust.

I beg you, I beg each and every one of you, on both sides of the aisle, do not further strike at the heart of this country and this institution with arrogance, for surely you will not strike with impunity.

I asked each of you to vow to never let this happen again. This process, this defiance of our citizens, it's not too late to begin to restore the bonds of trust with our nation and return committee to this institution.

And so join me, join me in voting against this bill, so that we can come together, together renew, addressing the challenge of health care in a manner that brings credit to this body and brings credit to the ideals of this nation. And most importantly, that reflects the will of the American people. And I yield back.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, is now walking up to the microphone. She'll be the final speaker before the vote. She'll give the Democrats' response to John Boehner, make the case for passage of this health care reform legislation. She will have an unlimited amount of time to make that case, and then the roll call will begin.

Will it be an electronic roll call or a voice roll call, we'll watch?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- I yield one minute. To the gentlewoman from California, who has led the way in this quest for health care reform, tirelessly, persistently, she's brought us to this moment of decision. The gentle lady from California, the Speaker of the House, Speaker Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you. Thank you, my colleagues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The distinguished speaker of the House is recognized, and the House will be in order.

PELOSI: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank all of you for bringing us to this moment.

It is with great humility and with great pride that we, tonight, will make history for our country and progress for the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

Just think, we will be joining those who established social security, Medicare, and now tonight, health care for all Americans. In doing so, we will honor the vows of our founders, who in the declaration of independence said that we are all -- that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This legislation will lead to healthier lives, more liberty to pursue hopes and dreams and happiness for the American people. This is an American proposal that honors the traditions of our country.

(APPLAUSE)

We would not be here tonight, for sure, without the extraordinary leadership and vision of President Barack Obama.

(APPLAUSE)

We thank him for his unwavering commitment to health care for all Americans. And this began over a year ago under his leadership in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, where we had very significant investments in science, technology, and innovation for health reform -- health care reform. It continued in the president's budget a few months later.

A budget which was a statement of our national values, which allocated resources that were part of our value system and in a way, that stabilized our economy, created jobs, lowered taxes for the middle class, and did so -- and reduced the deficit -- and did so in a way that had pillars of investment, including education and health care reform. Health care reform and education equal opportunity for the American people.

(LAUGHTER) And this -- and this legislation tonight, if I had one word to describe it, would be "opportunity," with its investments in education and health care as a continuation of the president's budget.

We all know, and it's been said over and over again, that our economy needs something new, a jolt. And I believe that this legislation will unleash tremendous entrepreneurial power into our economy. Imagine a society and an economy where a person could change jobs without losing health insurance.

(APPLAUSE)

Where they could be self-employed or start -- be self-employed or start a small business. Imagine an economy where people could follow their passions and their talent without having to worry that their children would not have health insurance, that if they had a child with diabetes who was bipolar or a pre-existing medical condition in their family, that they would be job-locked. Under this bill, their entrepreneurial spirit will be unleashed.

(APPLAUSE)

We all know -- we all know that the present health care system and insurance system -- health insurance system in our country is unsustainable. We simply cannot afford it. It doesn't work for enough people in terms of delivery of service, and it is bankrupting the country with the upward spiral of increasing medical cost. The best action that we can take on behalf of America's family budgets and on behalf of the federal budget is to pass health care reform.

The best action we can take to strengthen Medicare and improve care and benefits for our seniors is to pass this legislation tonight. Pass health care reform.

(APPLAUSE)

The best action we can do to create jobs and strengthen our economic security is pass health care reform.

(APPLAUSE)

The best action we can take to keep America competitive, ignite innovation, again, unleash entrepreneurial spirit is to pass health care reform.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

With this action tonight, with this health care reform, 32 million more Americans will have health care insurance. And those who have insurance now will be spared being at the mercy of the health insurance industry with their obscene increases in premiums, their rescinding of policies at the time of illness, their cutting off of policies, even if you have been fully paying, but become sick. The list goes on and on about the health care reforms that are in this legislation.

And sure, 32 million more people, make it more affordable for the middle class, end insurance company discrimination on pre-existing conditions, improve care and benefits under Medicare, and extending Medicare solvency for almost a decade. Creating a healthier America through prevention, through wellness and innovation, create 4 million jobs in the life of the bill, and doing all of that by saving the taxpayer $1.3 trillion.

(APPLAUSE)

Another speaker, Tip O'Neill, once said, all politics is local. And I say to you tonight that when it comes to health care, for all Americans, all politics is personal. It's personal for the family that wrote to me, who had to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor. It's personal to the family who was refused coverage because their child had a pre-existing condition. No coverage, the child got worse, sicker. It's personal for women.

After we pass this bill, being a woman will no longer be a pre- existing medical condition.

(APPLAUSE)

It's personal for senior gentleman whom I met in Michigan, who told me about his wife who had been bed-ridden for 16 years. He told me he didn't know how he was going to be able to pay his medical bills. As I said to you before, I saw a grown man cry. He was worried that he might lose his home, that they might lose their home because of his medical bills, and he didn't know how he was going to pay them. And most of all, he was too embarrassed to tell his children and ask them for help. How many times have you heard a story like that?

And it's personal for millions of families who have gone into bankruptcy under the weight of rising health care costs. In fact, many, many, many -- a high percentage of the bankruptcies in our country are caused by medical bills that people cannot pay. And it's personal for 45,000 Americans and their -- and families, who have lost a loved one each year because they didn't and couldn't get health insurance.

That is why we are proud and also humbled today to act with the support of millions of Americans who recognize the urgency of passing health care reform. And more than 350 organizations representing Americans of every age, every background, every part of the country who have endorsed this legislation. Our coalition ranges from AARP, who, quote -- said that our legislation, quote, "improves efforts to crack down on fraud and waste in Medicare, strengthening Medicare for today, today's seniors and future generations."

I repeat, "Improves effort to crack down on fraud and waste in Medicare, strengthening the program for today's and future generations of seniors."

To the American Medical Association, The Catholic Health Association, The United Medical -- The United Methodist Church and Voices of America's Children, from "A" to "Z," they are sending a clear message to members of Congress, say yes to health care reform.

(APPLAUSE)

We have also reached this historic moment because of the extraordinary leadership and hard work and dedication of all of the members of Congress. But I want to especially recognize our esteemed chairs, Mr. Waxman, Mr. Rangel, Mr. Miller, Mr. Spratt, Miss Slaughter for bringing this bill to the floor today. Let's acknowledge them.

(APPLAUSE)

And I want to acknowledge the staffs and the committees and of the leadership. They have done a remarkable, dazzling us with their knowledge and their know-how. I would like to thank on my own staff -- Amy Rosenbaum, Wendell Primus, and Arshi Siddiqui. And now I want to just close by saying this. It wouldn't be possible to talk about health care without acknowledging the great leadership of Senator Edward Kennedy, who made health care his life's work.

(APPLAUSE)

In a letter to President Obama before he passed away, he left a letter to be read after he died, Senator Kennedy wrote, "That access to health care was the great unfinished business of our society." That is, until today.

After more than a year of debate, and by the way, the legislation that will go forth from here has over 200 Republican amendments, and while it may not get Republican votes and be bipartisan in that respect, it is bipartisan in having over 200 Republican amendments.

(APPLAUSE)

And after a year of debate and hearing the calls of millions of Americans, we have come to this historic moment. Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans. That is a right, and not a privilege!

(APPLAUSE)

In that same letter to the president, Senator Kennedy wrote, what is at stake -- he said, "At stake are not just the details of policy, but the character of our country." Americans will look back on this day on which we honored the character of our country and honored our commitment to our nation's founders for a commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As our colleague John Lewis has said, "We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us." We have been given this opportunity. I urge -- an opportunity to stay right up there with, again, social security, Medicare, health care for all Americans. I urge my colleagues and join together in passing health insurance reform, making history, making progress, and restoring the American dream. I urge and I vote! Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS: The chair will again remind all persons in the gallery that they are here as guests of the House, and that any manifestation of approval or disapproval of proceedings or other audible conversation is in violation of the rules of the House. Under the rule, all time for debate has expired.

For what purpose does the gentleman from South Carolina seek recognition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prudent to House resolution, I call up the bill HR-3590 with the Senate amendment 02, and I have a motion at the desk.

OBEY: The clerk will report the title of the bill, designate the Senate amendments, and designate the motion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: HR-3590, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to modify the first-time home buyer's credit in the case of members of the Armed Forces and certain other federal employees and for other purposes, Senate amendments. Motion to concur offered by Mr. Spratt of South Carolina.

OBEY: Pursuant to section 2 of House Resolution 1203, the previous question is ordered on the motion. The questions on the motion, all those in favor say aye.

CROWD: Aye!

OBEY: Those oppose say no.

CROWD: No.

OBEY: In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.

JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Smigger, Mr. Smigger, on that I request a recorded vote and request that the speaker exercise your discretion to conduct this vote by a roll call under clause 2 of House rule 20.

(APPLAUSE)

OBEY: A recorded vote is requested. Those favoring a recorded vote will rise. A sufficient number having risen, a recorded vote is ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device. It is a 15-minute vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The 15-minute clock now begins. It's 10:31, almost 10:32 here on the East Coast. So there you'll have 15 minutes for all 435 members of the House of Representatives to record their votes. There aren't 435 members right now. Some have, unfortunately, passed away, others have retired. 216, though, remember, that is the magic number. That's the number that is needed in order to see health care reform passed.

What they're voting on right now is the Senate version, the Senate version that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, was sent to the House. That is what they're voting on right now. If, as we all expect, 216 members will vote in favor of this legislation, it's done. Health care reform has passed the Senate, has passed the House. It will go to the president of the United States for his signature, and then once it's signed, it will be the law of the land.

Now, right after this vote, assuming it passes, there will be another vote on the so-called Fix-It Bill, the Reconciliation Bill that will make some significant changes in the Senate bill. Once the House passes that, that will then go back to the Senate. The Senate will reconsider, will consider all those changes over the next several days and maybe even longer. But let's not lose sight of what is about to happen here in Washington, D.C. The historic passage of health care reform will be a done deal.

KING: When this vote is over, they will have passed and sent to the president the Senate legislation, which based on the Congressional Budget Office, would have had 32 million Americans, who today don't have health insurance, within a few years, they would be covered. It would cost nearly $1 trillion. It would prevent insurance companies from denying people coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or from bouncing them from coverage when day develop some kind of costly condition. Policy-wise, it is a landmark piece of legislation. The speaker played to the history there.

One political point, when leader Boehner, Wolf, was asking for the call of the roll, usually, they use a card like you would enter a hotel room, like an ATM card, they scrape the card, they vote yea or nay. He wanted the roll call vote, call out everybody's name. Blitzer, aye or nay; King, aye or nay, because the Republicans want that video for campaign ads. They were denied this.

BLITZER: They're not going to get that formal voice roll call. They're going to get the electronic roll call. 15 minutes going on right now.

Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A vote is a vote, though. And recording your vote is going to be very tricky for lots of these Democrats. In swing districts, Democrats who were swept into office and Republican districts with Barack Obama. Lots of these folks are going there to swipe their votes, knowing that this one vote could cost them their jobs. And will very likely cost them their jobs.

And if you look back on this over -- you know, we all thought this was going away after Scott Brown got elected. There was no tea party movement before health care reform. Barack Obama wasn't called a socialist much until health care reform. So this is an issue that has divided the country, will continue to divide the country, and we'll have to see which side is betting on the right side.

BLITZER: And if you take a look, they're already voting. Right now, the yeses is 179, the nos, 151. Keep a close eye on the yes. If it gets to 216, it's a done deal. 216, the magic number that is needed in order for this legislation to be sent to the president for his signature.

David Gergen, we're getting closer and closer to an outcome, which won't be a big surprise, because earlier in the day, the Democrats made sure that Bart Stupak and other anti-abortion Democrats were on board. The president promising he would sign a separate executive order clarifying that there would be no federal funding for abortion. But this is history.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is, Wolf. And as we approach that 216, which we're going to hit, just a brief reflection on the two closing speeches we just heard.

Speaker Pelosi is going into the history books tonight. Not only president after president, but speaker after speaker, has tried to bring the House to this point with this kind of vote. She's the first to succeed. This means that, you know, she's also the first woman speaker. It does recall the adage, "If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman."

And at the same time, though, we have to remember what John Boehner was asking. He was asking one of the most profound questions about a democracy. When a vote of this importance is made, should the representatives in a democracy listen to the voices of the people and reflect those voices, or should they make independent judgments? That is a question that goes right -- has been debated for centuries, and the American people are going to have a chance to reflect on that in coming months in these political campaigns just ahead.

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent, has been watching this. You've not only been watching it, today, you've been watching it all year long, understanding the intricacies of what's inside. You've been watching it for almost 20 years, should I say, since you were a White House fellow, and you worked on health care reform earlier during the Clinton administration. It's about to pass the House of Representatives, has already passed the Senate.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's -- everyone sort of agrees that there are these tragic stories in the United States about people who are uninsured and develop some sort of illness. We've heard some of them tonight, and I don't think anyone is comfortable hearing those stories.

And I guess, you know, a lot of the details about how exactly this is going to work and when exactly some of those -- some of this is going to be implemented, that, obviously, we're still going to be talking about.

But there are people out there right now who have some sort of medical illness and have been unable to get insurance. And those are probably the people that are paying attention the most right now, because with these high-risk pools that are being established using $5 billion in funding. People are going to be able to get insurance. So they've been putting off a surgery or an operation they may have need, not have been able to get treatment. This is going to help them.

Also, the other part of the story is people who have health care insurance, but then develop an illness and are denied their claims or canceled from their policies, I hear these stories all the time. Those rescissions are not going to be able to occur within six months after invitation either. So, it's some good news, I think, for some people out there.

BLITZER: You rule out, Kevin Madden, you're a Republican strategist, the possibility that, you know what, once this becomes the law of the land, people will see it, they'll feel it, they'll touch it, and you know what, they might wind up liking it.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I thought that was very interesting during this whole, entire debate over the last year and a half. Everybody kept saying, well, when the American people start to learn what's in the bill, they're going to like it. They've been learning for a year and a half what's in this bill, and they haven't liked it. And the main thing that they have not like is the cost. The price tag is enormous.

John Boehner alluded to it, I think, in his speech when he talked about, we're spending money that we don't have. That is a very, very real feeling. That's a very real anxiety that Americans are having right now.

And everybody's life is going to change after this bill. Small businesses and individuals are going to change. I think many people Republicans would make the argument that they're going to change for the worse. I agree with David Gergen, that Nancy Pelosi was very successful tonight. But succeeding at a bill does not necessarily mean that it is going to be seen as very successful years to come.

BLITZER: It's -- hold on, Donna. 191 votes now yes; 172, no. The magic number is 216. There's only seven minutes and 21 seconds left for members to actually vote, but getting very close. 193 now.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, what I wanted to say, and Kevin, as a former House employee, every member who is casting their ballot tonight, their vote tonight, they have access to some of the best health care in America. When they sign up to become a member of Congress, after they are sworn into office, they have access to plans all over the country, and they can pick and choose the very best available plan for them and for their families.

So this is a victory for the American people to have access now to some of the best plans across the country, because this puts -- some of the provisions will allow people with small businesses to go and shop across state lines for the best affordable plan. This is a victory for parents with children with pre-existing conditions. This is a victory for the American people. And it's also a victory for those who care about the deficit. I care about the deficit. I care that this bill will pay for itself and that it will bring down the deficit over the next 20 years.

BLITZER: 200 votes already. They need 16 more. I think there's little doubt they'll get those 16 votes. 179 opposed. Six minutes or so left for members to vote.

Normally, John, and I botch a lot of these roll calls, 201 now -- who waits until the last minute? Because they're all there, basically, on the floor?

KING: Well, they have a bit of a cushion here, apparently, which will make this a little less dramatic than say the Clinton budget, which passed by that one vote. And often in those cases, what you will see is you see down here in the well where the people are gathering, this is small talk, because they vote by their electronic cards, they're not coming down there to vote, but some do come down to check the count. They come down to check the count, and there are small conversations.

Often off on the side -- it's a crowded chamber until it's open -- this is because of the historic nature of this vote. A lot of -- some people couldn't vote and then they're gone. They just vote and go. These people are all staying to see the end of this. Opponents and proponents.

But sometimes you'll see little clusters. And you'll see whether it's the speaker or the majority leader or the whips should go around and count the votes. They'll have three or four people like this in a group, and say Congressman Madden who have said, if you need my yes, I'll give it to you. But I would really like to vote no, because otherwise I'm going to get hammered back home.

And somebody will keep a hand on him so he doesn't get away, and they'll wait until the end. It doesn't look like they have that drama here. When the anti-abortion Democrats came on board today, they got a little bit of a cushion. But you can be sure a couple of the nays had told the speaker this morning, if you absolutely need me, I'll be there for you.

BLITZER: They're up to 206. Ten more Democrats need. No Republicans will vote for this, including that one Republican congressman from New Orleans, from Louisiana, Congressman Cao. He voted for it the last time, but he's not accepting the abortion language this time, so he's going to vote no.

208 in favor, 216, Gloria, the magic number.

BORGER: I wouldn't be surprised if there were some Democrats holding back who really supported health care who want to be number 216 because they know how historic this vote is. Because what we'll hear is we're going to hear the House erupt, of course, with cheers from the Democrats.

KING: It's like those congressman that try and sit in the aisle during the State of the Union --

BORGER: That's right. KING: -- so they can get to beat the president. They're going to be waiting there.

BORGER: Somebody wants to go home to his district and say, I was number 216 and I want you to know that, unlike Margerie Mezvinsky that time with the Clinton budget vote.

BLITZER: She was the democratic congresswoman from suburban Philadelphia, who voted with the president, in favor of tax increases, in '93 and '94. She was defeated in her bid for re-election. We have three minutes and 49 seconds. 209 in favor, 216 is the magic number.

You look so serious, Donna. As if there's any doubt that the Democrats will get those 216. I know this is a very exciting moment for you.

BRAZILE: Well, I just received a statement, and of course, I cannot -- I'm not like Gloria, I don't know how to do all that off the record stuff, but it's from Victoria Reggie Kennedy, who tonight will issue a statement following this historic vote.

BLITZER: The window of Senator Kennedy.

BRAZILLE: Yes. And, you know, it brings back some of the things that we talked about earlier, especially Dr. Gupta, who talked about people who clearly come to his community clinic, and by the time they arrive at your door, they're already broken down and beaten up, and they just need some love, some help. And I want to thank Dr. Gupta and all of the other doctors who are taking care of so many people without health care, because finally, there will get some help, and you will get paid.

BLITZER: Kevin, correct me if I'm wrong, you once worked for John Boehner in the House of Representatives.

MADDEN: I did.

BLITZER: He got emotional there. You saw -- you've seen that before, but for him, this is passionate. He thinks this is a huge mistake, a huge blunder for America.

MADDEN: It is. And John personalizes a lot of his arguments. And I think he's -- I think he did it tonight. You know, John grew up in a very large household. He grew up in a family that owned and operated a small business, with him and his brothers and sisters working at a tavern just outside Cincinnati.

So I think he feels that the people out there in places like Cincinnati, Ohio, who are trying to run small businesses, and who don't like the creeping size of government, who don't like these costs and these federal mandates being sent from Washington to a place like Cincinnati, that he tries to personalize some of that.

BLITZER: All right. Look at this. Two votes away. 214 votes in favor. They need 216 -- 215, one more and this passes the House of Representatives. They're getting so excited over there on the House floor.

Let's listen in.

That's it. The House of Representatives has passed health care reform. The Senate bill. It now goes to the president of the United States for his signature, and he will sign it into law. Whatever they do on the so-called reconciliation package, they will do, but health care reform, not only for a year in the making by this administration and the Democrats, but for decades, they've been trying to do it. It has now been done.

Let's listen in to the Democrats' cheer.

Well, they were cheering. They were cheering, "Yes, we can; Yes, we can," and yes, they did. They have passed health care reform. 216. You see the number right there, now 217 in favor. 204 opposed. There's only a little bit of time left, but whatever else they get, John King, they've got it. They've got 217 already. They've got this passed. Before I go to you, let me go off to Dana Bash, our congressional correspondent.

Dana, where exactly are you? Statutory hall?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You mean closer to the House chamber than that. I'm actually in an area what they call Will Rogers. But I can see the doors to the House floor right over there. I'm very close to it. And I could hear the cheering big-time when that vote went over 216.

And not only that, we have our producer, Deidra Walsh, who is in the chamber, and she was reporting some of the color that we couldn't see on television.

First of all, she was just talking about the galleries, how they were so incredibly packed. Packed like she had really never seen before. And one other interesting thing is that the leaders on the Democratic side, she said, were incredibly relaxed, not working over anybody.

And you know, many times with these tense votes and high-stakes votes, you really see members of the leadership going over to some people they're really not sure about, maybe soft votes and twisting their arms and making sure, are you really OK? It didn't happen. It didn't happen on the floor during this vote. So it is an indicator that what we were talking about, leading up to the vote, how confident they felt, was really true. And that certainly seemed to play out during this vote, Wolf.

BLITZER: They started this debate on the House floor at 1:00 p.m. They convened earlier today, 1:00 p.m. Eastern. It's now approaching 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. But history has been made. Health care reform has passed, passed the House of Representatives tonight. Passed the Senate Christmas Eve.

Look at this, 219 in favor. They needed 216. So they've got three votes to spare, but that is more than they need right now. All Democrats, no Republicans, not one Republican voted for this. They will now have a separate roll call on the reconciliation bill, the fix-it bill, as they call it. The changes in the Senate version. But whatever they do in the Senate on that, the law of the land pretty soon, as soon as the president signs this into law, will be the Senate version.

John, you're getting quick reaction from folks on your BlackBerry.

KING: One quick point, the 34 nays, the Republicans will seize on saying, look, 34 Democrats couldn't vote with their leadership, but a win is a win is a win. The Democrats get their legislation. That nay number will play out in the campaign.

Donna noted the statement from Vickie Kennedy. I want to read one line of it, and then a little personal plug if you might. She's talking about Ted Kennedy in this statement. As Ted said across the decades, in the best and most discouraging hours, health care was the cost of his life. Tonight, that cost becomes more than a dream.

BLITZER: Hold on. David Obey is reading --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBEY: -- the motion to concur in the Senate amendments is adopted, without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I interrupted you, John, but you heard David Obey, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

He was tough up there with the gavel, shooting down all sorts of Republican requests, but it's over with. Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, is about to make some sort of statement.

Let's listen in to the floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBEY: Gentleman from Maryland.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House resolution 1203, I call up HR-4872, and ask for its immediate consideration.

OBEY: The clerk will report the title of the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Union calendar number 256, HR-4872, a bill to provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 202 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2010.

OBEY: Pursuant to section 3, house resolution 1203, the amendment in the nature of a substitute printed in part A, the house report 111-448, modified by the amendment printed in part B the report is adopted, and the bill as amended is ordered and read.

Pursuant to House resolution 1203, the previous question is ordered on the bill as amended. The questions on engrossment and third reading of the bill, those in favor say aye.

CROWD: Aye!

OBEY: Those oppose, no.

CROWD: No!

OBEY: The ayes have a third reading.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bill also provide for reconciliation in pursuant to section 202 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2010.

OBEY: -- what purpose -- (GAVEL BANGS)

For what purpose did the gentleman from Michigan arise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a motion to recommit at the desk.

OBEY: Is the gentleman opposed to the bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In its current form.

OBEY: The gentleman qualifies the clerk will designate the motion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Motion to recommit with instructions offered by Mr. Camp of Michigan.

OBEY: Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Michigan is recognized for five minutes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker!

OBEY: What purpose is the gentleman from Maryland rise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the motion going to be read? We haven't seen the motion?

OBEY: The rule dispenses with the reading. It's merely designated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

OBEY: The gentleman --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the previous vote shows --

OBEY: Gentleman will suspend. Members will take their seats. Members need to know what's in the motion. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Let me just briefly explain what's going on. John, we'll explain to our viewers, this is a motion to recommit. They were about to take up the reconciliation bill, the fix-it bill to get that passed. No doubt it will be passed and sent to the Senate for consideration. But now the Republicans have introduced what they call a motion to recommit.

KING: Because these changes are so important to the House Democrats who did not want to pass the Senate bill. They have now passed the Senate bill and sent it to the president. These are the changes the House Democrats insisted on, and the Republicans have promised to try to gum up this process as much as they can and they're trying to send it back to committee now by saying we want to change some language in it.

And one of the things we know they want to change is that abortion funding language. That's in the motion to recommit. And they're trying to get some Democrats to vote for this motion. We are told, and those Democrats said they would not do so, but it is one last attempt by the Republicans in the House to keep the fixes part. It's called reconciliation. What a strange word for it. That's the process. They're trying to keep that from moving along.

BLITZER: You know what, let's listen in as he explains, this Republican Congressman Camp, to explain why they are doing this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBEY: I would suggest -- I understand members are trying to ascertain what's in the motion. It would be helpful if we had a little understanding on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! The ruling waived the reading of the amendment, Mr. Speaker.

OBEY: The House will be in order!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the very -- Mr. Speaker, the very egregious rule --

(CROSSTALK)

OBEY: The gentleman from Michigan has the floor!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the very strict rules of the House waived the reading of all of these rules and motions, but this motion ensures the hide language remains the law of the land. The latest in a long string of deals, the one made today with the president does not protect the life of unborn children.

As the gentleman -- as the gentleman from Mississippi, a Democrat, warned earlier today, and I quote, "Anything the president does by executive order, he can undo by executive order. There is no bargaining or deal making when it comes to the life of the unborn. A life is a life, and it is a responsibility of this House to defend these children!

(APPLAUSE)

When this measure was last before the House, it passed overwhelmingly, 240-194. It should do so again. I now yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Pitts, to further discuss this motion to recommit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in support of the motion before us. Over and over again, polls have shown the public does not support federal funding of abortions. Unfortunately, the Senate rejected the will of the people and passed a bill that has become known as the most massively pro-abortion piece of legislation to come before Congress since Roe v. Wade.

Despite the political run around that we've been given this last week, the facts remain before us today, the Senate bill departs from long-standing current policy and achieves the exact opposite effect of current law.

And an executive order promised by the president will not change these facts. An executive order does not trump a statute, and the courts will undoubtedly look to the legislative text to interpret the law. Moreover, the promise to order fails to even correct the egregious pro-life concerns contained in this bill. It will simply reiterate the meaningless accounting scheme cooked up by the Senate bill. Regardless of what type of gimmick is employed to facilitate the abortion payments, the result will be the same. The abortion rate will rise and more unborn lives will be lost.

The executive order does nothing to prevent funding for abortion in the co-op program, or prevent funding for abortion in the high-risk insurance pool program. The executive order does not prevent HERSA from issuing regs that include abortion as a preventive service. Thereby, mandating all individual plans and group plans that include abortion as a required service. The executive order does nothing to prevent that abortion surcharge mandate from being implemented. It is full of loopholes.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to reinstate the pro-life protections that passed this chamber last November in a bipartisan vote. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment. I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this motion and I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I now yield to the gentleman from New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, in a dramatic reversal of current law, Obamacare has just passed, authorizes health insurance policies funded with tax credits and cost reduction payments to pay for abortion on demand and forces the issuers of federally subsidized plans to collect a new abortion fee, an abortion surtax from every enrolee to pay for every other people's abortions. Insurance companies need only segregate the funds, a mere bookkeeping exercise to subsidize unrestricted publicly funded abortion.

OPM will also --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House is not in order. There are members of the staff on the other side of the aisle. And the majority chose to waive in the rule, the reading of the amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.

The house will be in order.

OBEY: The house will be in order.

Gentleman from New Jersey, please proceed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, OPM will also administer multi-state insurance plans with abortion, another radical departure from the status quo. One of the executive, with all due respect, what a joke. It does absolutely nothing to mitigate or change in any way the huge expansion of the public funding of abortion. For example, and I ask members to read it, section two only directs officials pursuant to provisions of the bill just passed to establish a model set of segregation guidelines.

So in other words, the abortion expansion continues unabated -- I ask members to support Stupak-Pitts in the motion to recommit.

OBEY: The gentleman from Maryland arise. The gentleman's recognized for five minutes.

HOYER: I thank the speaker. Ladies and gentlemen, we have come a far pace. The majority of this House has just voted to do for Americans what with 100 years of presidents have asked for. We are on the cusp of a great victory for America and for Americans. This motion is inconsistent with reconciliation. A process that 72 percent of the time was pursued by the other body -- by the other party. They know that this motion is not in order, and they know this motion would not have support in the Senate. So they are indirectly trying to kill this bill.

However, as well, I think they well mistake the case, and I yield to the gentleman from Michigan.

(APPLAUSE)

REP. BART STUPAK (D) MICHIGAN: I thank the gentleman for yielding time. The motion to recommit purports to be a right-to-life motion. In spirit of the Stupak amendment, but as the author of the Stupak amendment, this motion is nothing more than an opportunity to continue to deny 32 million Americans health care.

(APPLAUSE)