In a close 219-212 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives voted last night to pass the Senate's version of health care reform. After more than a year of debate the final version of the bill now awaits President Obama's signature.
The House rejected a last-ditch effort to send a package of legislative fixes back to committee in order to insert language on abortion supported by the U.S. bishops. The vote on the reconciliation package, which concluded shortly before midnight, was 220-211. Twenty-three Democrats joined all 178 House Republicans in opposing the measure.
The House votes came only after Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., obtained a promise from the White House that President Barack Obama would sign an executive order stipulating that the Hyde amendment would apply to the health reform legislation.
The White House has not indicated when Obama will sign the health reform bill or issue the executive order. Unconfirmed news reports said Obama would sign the bill March 23.
Passage of the reform package has spurred reactions from every side in the Catholic world. Here's a few of the most prominent, with excerpts and links to full statements when possible.
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[Editor's Note: This story will be updated throughout the day with more reactions.]
Reacting to news that Obama had struck a deal to sign an executive order limiting funding for abortion in the new health care scheme, Richard Doerflinger, the associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said that such an order does not address the Bishop's concerns about the now passed Senate bill:
Unfortunately, this proposal does not begin to address the problem, which arises from decades of federal appellate rulings that apply the principles of Roe v. Wade to federal health legislation. According to these rulings, such health legislation creates a statutory requirement for abortion funding, unless Congress clearly forbids such funding. That is why the Hyde amendment was needed in 1976, to stop Medicaid from funding 300,000 abortions a year. The statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation. This is the unanimous view of our legal advisors and of the experts we have consulted on abortion jurisprudence. Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation.
Catholic Health Association
Sr. Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, praised the legislation, saying it "represents great progress in the long effort to make health care available and affordable to everyone in the United States." She urged the Senate to take quick action to pass the reconciliation package.
The National Right to Life Committee
The National Right to Life Committee released a statement criticizing Obama's executive order:
Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats, hailed the vote as a "day of Thanksgiving for the American people:"
Catholics for Choice
Catholics for Choice, a group which says it supports a woman's right to follow her conscience regarding abortion, said the last minute executive order misled the American people and called the Catholic bishops 'extremist' and 'dishonest':
However, when it came to the end game, the bishops decided that their opposition to abortion was more important than everything else. It was on the basis of their extremist and dishonest interpretation of the sections on abortion that the bishops decided that they would oppose passage of the bill. In so doing, they proved that rather than being leaders for social justice and advocates for the poor and marginalized, they were marching in lockstep alongside the most extremist fringe in the antichoice lobby. Shame on them.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Morna Murray, president of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, said passage of the bill recognizes there is "nothing more fundamental to our core Catholic principles than caring for the sick and most vulnerable:"
Deal Hudson, president of Catholic Advocate, called Obama's executive order a 'betrayal:'
Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, is planning to attend the signing ceremony for the bill March 23. In a public statement she expressed gratitude for the passing of the legislation:
[Contributing to this report were Joshua McElwee of NCR and Catholic News Service.]