Party Line Vote in Suburbs on Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

Byline: Joseph Ryan Politics and Projects Editor

Suburban lawmakers in the U.S. House split strictly along party lines in a landmark vote on a major overhaul of AmericaAEs health care infrastructure late Saturday night.

Facing protests from both sides of the divisive proposal for months, U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean of Barrington and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Batavia ended up siding with their party in pushing the Democratic proposal across the finish line with 220 votes, just two votes more than needed. Also supporting the measure was U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat who has long backed government health coverage expansion.

Suburban Republicans stood firm against the plan, which will create a national insurance exchange with federal oversight, a government administered insurance option and a mandate for everyone to purchase coverage. The Republicans who stood with nearly the entire GOP House caucus in opposition included U.S. Reps. Mark Kirk of Highland Park, who is also a Senate candidate, Judy Biggert of Hinsdale, Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Don Manzullo of the Rockford area.

Republicans have been railing against the signature domestic policy agenda item for President Barack Obama since the summer, as they also sought to push their own plans that required less government intervention, but offered weaker insurance protections while also ensuring coverage for far fewer Americans.

The days leading up to House passage featured dramatic vote wrangling by Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bean and Foster said their arms werenAEt twisted and they were pleased with the final measure, on balance. However, the vote is sure to be a key issue in looming general election battles for both Democrats next year.

Foster said he believes constituents who now oppose the reform measures may come around despite hearing accusations it will gut Medicare funding, ration health care and send the national debt skyrocketing.

"They are going to see the things that are happening are good and not bad," said Foster, a freshman from the far West suburban 14th District. "Then they are going to realize who is telling them the truth and who isnAEt."

In voting for the legislation, Bean and Foster pointed to provisions barring insurance practices that deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, kick the insured off the rolls when they are sick and cap payments for the critically ill. The proposal, they say, will also for the first time provide affordable coverage options for the tens of millions of uninsured.

As for Medicare, Bean and Foster say the measure will close a gap in prescription coverage, commonly called the "doughnut hole," over the next decade while not reducing any coverage for seniors.

The current measure raises taxes on individuals making more than $500,000 a year and couples taking in more than $1 million annually. …