The final vote for health care was 219-212, and one of the "nay" votes came from the House Representative of Texas' 13th district, Mac Thornberry. Congressman Thornberry took some time out from the debate floor to speak with us here at Newschannel 6 to share his views about the bill and what it means for Texoma.
Congressman Thornberry will also join us for a special discussion tomorrow (3/22) when we will relay to him your questions, which you can submit to us by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org
What was the atmosphere like today on Capitol Hill?
"It's been pretty tense all weekend. There have been a number of activists and people who feel very strongly about other issues in town and of course they're packing the galleries, walking the halls to make sure their view is known."
Not one Republican voted for this legislation. Why was the party so united in its opposition?
"Well, for two reasons: one is, every republican thinks this is a bad bill and that it takes us in a direction we don't want to go. It will hurt Americans all across this country. Secondly, republican ideas have been shut out of the process all along. There has been no attempt to consider republican ideas in this bill so that makes it less likely you'll have republican support for it."
There are a lot of big numbers in this bill: spend $938 billion on expanding insurance coverage, including $464 billion in subsidies to help uninsured people buy coverage; cut Medicare spending by $455 billion from currently-projected levels; produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $143 billion. In simplified terms, what kind of an impact will this legislation have on Texomans?
"It will affect every person in the country because every person in the country will have to have insurance. Everybody that has insurance will now see their premiums go up. There will be a number of tax increases that I think will make it harder for the economy in our area and all across the country to go and finally, there will be more government in every part of your health care. More government intrusion in that relationship between you and your doctor."
What will this mean to Texoma business owners? Employees?
"If you have more than 50 employees and you don't offer a certain degree of health insurance, they will be fined. There are other tax increases that are really going to affect businesses so I'm afraid this bill will make economic recovery and job creation even harder to achieve."
Many of America's closest allies - Britain, France, Canada, among others - all offer citizens comprehensive health care. This bill should expand coverage to about 95 percent of Americans. What's wrong with that?
"I think it is a good thing to have more people covered by health insurance. Of course, saying they don't have health insurance is not the same as saying they don't have health care. A lot of people do have health care, but regardless, we want more people to be able to get health insurance. That's a good thing. But to have government mandates, to have a bunch of government boards and commissions telling us what that insurance has to be like and what your doctor can and cannot do for you takes it too far.
If you add it up all together this bill ends up being close to 4000 pages. So of course there are some positive provisions in there, but to have such a massive overhaul in one single swoop really outweighs any of the positives and that's why people are so concerned and have been so opposed to it in our area."
Republicans have fought valiantly against the passage of this health care reform, but was no match for the democratic majority; where does the party go from here? Is this the end of the health care debate for the foreseeable future?
"No, I think health care will continue to be a major, major issue. This bill puts government into so many health care issues that I think it's inevitable congress will continue to debate various health care issues for years and years to come. I think there will be a real push to try to change the control of congress in the next election and try to modify or even repeal this bill.
There's no way that you can put all those new regulations and mandates on insurance and mandate that everyone has to have insurance with all of the subsidies that go with that and say that it's not going to be enormously expensive in the years to come, adding to our national debt, and increasing the taxes that all of us, and our children and grandchildren, will have to pay."
How should citizens look at this bill in the context of Welfare Reform, Civil Rights and other major legislative achievements?
"This is a huge bill, no question about it. Partly because it is so big and expensive and partly because it will affect every single person in the country; partly because it gets into one of the most personal areas of our lives and that is health care. So this is a major piece of legislation there is no doubt about it."
A big reason why Democrats were able to pass this is because they secured an executive order from President Obama that the bill would prohibit federal funding for abortions. What are your thoughts on that measure?
"I think it's a fig leaf and it's not really going to matter. And remember President Obama is a pro-choice president, and he's not going to do anything that seriously disagrees with that opinion."
Finally, how would you characterize this bill to your constituents here in Texoma?
"More bigger government. It's not as much government as some people wanted, with the public option, and so forth, but it is still nonetheless much bigger government, more expensive government, the cost of which we are passing along to our children and grandchildren to repay.