Health care cliffhanger: The view from Florida
UPDATE: 11:36 p.m The House passed the bill of "fixes" by 220-211. "This bill is passed," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said to cheers from Democrats.
UPDATE 10:47 p.m. The House passed the Senate bill 219-212. All Florida Democrats were in favor; all Republicans were against.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House has begun a long day of debate over health care, with final votes expected tonight. This blog will serve as a running account of how Florida lawmakers and others are reacting.
First out of the gate is Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who went as far as to say that passage would "constitute a decisive step in the weakening of the United States."
"This legislation is not honest, nor is it responsible," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "At precisely the time when we should be implementing necessary reforms to strengthen and save Medicare, for example, this legislation raids Medicare by more than $500 billion in order to pay for a new, massive entitlement."
Shortly after 3 p.m., Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, took to the floor for a short speech praising the legislation. She was the first Floridian to speak. (video here)
Castor said Medicare will get "stronger" by focusing on prevention and controlling costs, and she said new tax credits will help small businesses provide insurance. "We're going to side with families against the insurance companies," she said.
Meanwhile conservative activists continue their rally outside the Capitol. There are two views of the crowd, one of democracy in action, the other as uncivilized. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, used Twitter to praise the protesters as "tireless & very respectful" and noted they never leave trash behind. Later, Posey posted a picture of himself showing his red "no" vote card.
But there were fresh reports of ugliness Sunday, with Rep. Barney Frank saying for a second day that a protester denounced him with a gay slur. Florida Democratic spokesman Eric Jotkoff called on U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who has been fueled in part by the Tea Party movement, to denounce the actions.
An organizer said the behavior, which included a racist taunt to Rep. John Lewis on Saturday, was not representative of the group.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, . "We are an intense people and we celebrate today the immensity of our intensity," he said. He blasted those who called the plan socialism and invoked a conservative icon. "We must have the courage to do what is morally right, that was Ronald Reagan," he said.
Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers: "We are saying no to this takeover of health care. ... You may win this vote today through arm twisting tricks and backroom deals, but let's see who's still here after the American people speak loud and clear in November."
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said a large share of the new taxes would be shouldered by small businesses. "I had a senior the other day say all I have is my Social Security and Medicare. It's not perfect but don't mess with my Medicare." (House Democrats issued a statement saying Buchanan was being misleading about Medicare cuts.)
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, said it would hurt Florida Seniors by cutting Medicare Advantage plans. Referring to an executive order the president will issue barring federal funds for abortion, he said, "No lawyer will argue that an executive order is law."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, said she would vote yes for small business owners, for breast cancer survivors who have a pre-existing condition and can't get insurance and for all the mothers who have beautiful children like hers but lack health insurance. "Our system is broken. It's un-American. The nightmare ends tonight."
Rep. Ginny Brown Waite, R-Brooksville: