WASHINGTON - (AP) - President Barack Obama said Sunday it was timefor the Senate to "take the baton" on health care reform afterthe House passed its plan for overhauling the nation's health caresystem.
"For years we've been told that this couldn't be done," Obamasaid in a brief statement from the Rose Garden. "But last nightthe House proved different."
The Democratic-controlled House on Saturday narrowly passed thefar-reaching legislation, 220-215, but the road ahead in the Senatepromises to be rocky. The president said the House vote tookcourage for many lawmakers because of the heated and oftenmisleading rhetoric that accompanied debate over how the change thesystem.
"Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton andbring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the Americanpeople, and I'm absolutely confident that they will," Obama said."I'm equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at theWhite House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reformlegislation into law, they'll be able to join their Housecolleagues and say this was their finest moment in publicservice."
Republican lawmakers have vowed to do all they can to stop theDemocratic plan, which they contend will cost jobs, raise insurancerates and lead to huge tax increases. The Senate has yet toschedule debate on its version of health care reform.
House Republicans were nearly unanimous in opposing the planthat would expand coverage to tens of millions of Americans andplace tough new restrictions on the insurance industry.
A triumphant House Speaker Nancy Pelosi compared the legislationto the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 yearslater.