UPDATE: House passes Democratic changes to health bill - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: House passes Democratic changes to health bill

WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- A ceremony at the White House is planned for Tuesday as President Obama signs the landmark health care bill.

His spokesman says Obama is inviting all of the lawmakers who supported the bill, along with other Americans whose stories represent the need for health care reform.

Later in the week, Obama will be traveling to Iowa, as he starts talking-up the benefits of the bill on behalf of House members. And he still has to see a companion bill through the Senate.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the legislation Monday -- a formality before Obama's own signature -- she said the House had "made history." Pelosi says the legislation is "on a par with passing Social Security and Medicare."

Debate is expected to begin as soon as Tuesday in the Senate on a companion measure making a series of changes sought by House Democrats.

Republicans plan parliamentary objections that could change the bill and make it go back to the House.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- The House has passed key changes to its just-approved overhaul of health care legislation. The changes are part of a prearranged agreement to guarantee passage of the historic legislation.

The changes passed by a 220-211 vote. That bill now goes to the Senate for final approval, where it only requires a simple majority to pass.

The fast-track measure eliminates targeted provisions for specific states in the main health care bill. It softens a tax on high-value insurance plans opposed by organized labor.

It also contains an education provision that is a domestic priority of President Barack Obama. That measure increases college assistance for needy students and ends government reliance on private lenders for higher education loans.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Sensing victory, President Barack Obama is planning to make a statement to the nation Sunday night after the House takes its final vote on health care legislation.

The White House announced late Sunday afternoon that Obama would speak from the East Room in the evening, with the timing to be determined.

The announcement was another signal that Obama was confident that Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation at the center of his domestic agenda.

The announcement came after Obama and Democratic House leaders resolved a dispute over abortion Sunday, securing crucial support from a handful of lawmakers.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- A leading Democratic abortion foe in the House says he has reached agreement with the White House and party leaders to make sure health care legislation does not permit the use of federal funds for elective abortions.

Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan said Sunday the agreement means he can now support a health care bill headed for a vote on the House floor later Sunday.

Six other Democrats joined Stupak at a news conference, called minutes after the White House issued the text of an executive order that will carry out the agreement.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- President Barack Obama has announced plans to issue an executive order assuring that health care overhaul legislation would not change the restrictions on federal money for abortion.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the order provides safeguards to ensure that the status quo is "upheld and enforced." Long-standing federal policy bars U.S. aid for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.

The order is designed to help assure the passage of Obama's massive health care bill by winning support from a bloc of anti-abortion lawmakers.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- President Barack Obama is staying involved in last-minute lobbying as the House moves toward a vote on a historic health care bill.

Obama was spending Sunday in the West Wing as Democrats worked to lock down votes on legislation to overhaul the nation's health insurance system.

The White House said Obama made a surprise appearance at a morning meeting of his senior staff, and that he continues to get updates on the vote count.

The president is making and taking calls with lawmakers as the House approached an expected set of votes on Sunday.

The White House said Obama was also absorbing another reality -- his busted March Madness bracket.

Obama picked Kansas to win the men's NCAA basketball title; the Jayhawks lost on Saturday.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- House Democratic leaders are predicting the health care bill will get at least the 216 votes it needs to pass later today, even though they're still nailing down commitments.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told NBC's "Meet the Press" that some members are still "trying to make up their minds."

The Democrats' vote-counting whip in the House, James Clyburn of South Carolina, says some of the undecideds want greater assurances that no federal money would be used for elective abortions.

Democrats have raised the possibility that those concerns could be alleviated if President Barack Obama issued an executive order reiterating long-standing law barring federal aid for abortions except in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the mother. Clyburn says more will be known about that possibility by this afternoon.

One Democrat who had been concerned about the abortion issue, Ohio's Marcy Kaptur, says she has decided to vote for the bill. She says she's convinced it will maintain existing law on abortion.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says Democrats will have the 216 votes needed to pass health care reform when it comes to the floor for a vote.

The Maryland Democrat predicts that the bill, President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy, will pass on Sunday because the majority of Americans want it.

But House Republican leader John Boehner says the Democrats have yet to lock in the 216 votes required for passage. The Ohio Republican says the plan is a government takeover opposed by the vast majority of Americans.

The House leaders, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," condemned the racial taunts hurled at congressmen during protests on Capitol Hill on Saturday.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Health care legislation finally comes to an up or down vote in the House on Sunday, and Democratic leaders have been making a final bid to unite party members behind it.

President Barack Obama went to Capitol Hill to tell Democratic lawmakers that a vote in favor would prove good politics. Calling it "the most important piece of domestic legislation" since Medicare, Obama said the future of his health care overhaul is in their hands and urged them to make history by bringing health insurance to millions of struggling families now left out.

Democratic leaders are planning a straight up or down vote on the bill the Senate passed in December. They'll also vote on a package of changes to the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought a pledge from more than 50 of his Democratic colleagues to promptly finish the bill after the House votes. House Democrats have been wary of being left in the lurch by the famously unpredictable Senate.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- President Barack Obama says House Democrats should vote Sunday for a massive health care bill to help Americans. But he says it will also end up being good politics.

Obama acknowledged to a meeting of House Democrats that backing the bill is a tough vote. But he said he believes it will end up being "the smart thing to do politically."

In his televised remarks to the Democrats, he said, "Don't do it for me, don't do it for the Democratic Party, do it for the American people. They're the ones looking for action right now."

The president singled out two Democrats who will support the bill after opposing an earlier version last year, Reps. Betsy Markey of Colorado, and John Boccieri of Ohio.


WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- President Barack Obama is continuing his push for health care reform up to the wire, with the House expected to vote on the Democrats' $490 billion health care bill Sunday.

Obama is traveling to a George Mason University to speak about revamping health insurance.

Support seems to be building behind the reform efforts, as a result of intense lobbying and some politically targeted charges aimed at reassuring wavering lawmakers and winning over critics.

Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee and first-time Rep. Betsy Markey of Colorado announced Thursday they would stand behind the bill.

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