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Health care vote reaction round-up

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In a close 219-212 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives voted last night to pass the Senate's version of health care reform. After more than a year of debate the final version of the bill now awaits President Obama's signature.

The House rejected a last-ditch effort to send a package of legislative fixes back to committee in order to insert language on abortion supported by the U.S. bishops. The vote on the reconciliation package, which concluded shortly before midnight, was 220-211. Twenty-three Democrats joined all 178 House Republicans in opposing the measure.

The House votes came only after Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., obtained a promise from the White House that President Barack Obama would sign an executive order stipulating that the Hyde amendment would apply to the health reform legislation.

The White House has not indicated when Obama will sign the health reform bill or issue the executive order. Unconfirmed news reports said Obama would sign the bill March 23.

Passage of the reform package has spurred reactions from every side in the Catholic world. Here's a few of the most prominent, with excerpts and links to full statements when possible.

Two Catholic, pro-life supporters back Senate bill

WASHINGTON -- Two Catholic House members who describe themselves as lifelong supporters of pro-life causes said they are convinced that the Senate-approved health reform legislation headed for a House vote does not expand federal funding of abortion.

Reps. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., and Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio, said at a teleconference sponsored by Faith in Public Life that they would vote for the Senate bill. The House vote was expected to take place March 21.

Lawmakers struggle with moral choice on health care

WASHINGTON -- As President Obama mounts a full-court press to push his health care bill through Congress, his latest target is a Louisiana Republican whose Catholic faith finds him torn between restricting abortion and expanding access to health care.

Obama asked Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao -- the only Republican to vote for the health care bill in either the House or Senate -- to take a fresh look at the bill March 17.

Editorial: National Catholic Reporter backs health bill

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Congress, and its Catholics, should say yes to health care reform.

We do not reach this conclusion as easily as one might think, given the fact that we have supported universal health care for decades, as have the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association and other official and non-official organs of the Catholic church. There are, to be sure, grave problems with the bill the House will consider in the next few days. It maintains the squirrelly system of employer-based health care coverage that impedes cost reduction. Its treatment of undocumented workers is shameful. It is unnecessarily complicated, even Byzantine, in some of its provisions. It falls short of providing true universal coverage.

Nuns: Vote for health bill would be 'life-affirming'

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WASHINGTON -- The leaders of more than four dozen U.S. congregations of women religious are urging members of Congress to "cast a life-affirming 'yes' vote" on the Senate's version of health reform legislation.

"Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions," they said in a letter delivered to all members of Congress March 17. "It will uphold long-standing conscience protections and it will make historic new investments -- $250 million -- in support of pregnant women."

Their letter came two days after the U.S. bishops restated their objections to provisions in the measure they said would expand federal funding of abortions.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said March 15 that the bishops were "not quibbling over technicalities" and that the bill deliberately omitted "the necessary language that could have taken this moral question off the table."

In their letter the nuns said theirs "is the real pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for" the health bill.

Catholic bishops, hospitals split on health care

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WASHINGTON -- In a break with Catholic hospital administrators, the nation's top Catholic bishop says the health care reform bill "must be opposed" because it does not adequately ban federal funding of abortion.

"The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected," Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Monday (March 15).

President Obama, who is pressing Congress to pass a health care bill this week, has pledged to exclude federal funding of abortion from the legislation except in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's health is in jeopardy, as has been federal law since the 1970s.

Obama and others say the health care bill passed by the Senate in December fulfills that promise. The Catholic bishops argue that it does not, and that only the version passed by the House in December contains the necessary ban.

Obama's spiritual cabinet

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WASHINGTON -- Near the end of a bumpy first year in office, President Obama readied for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii, but before he left, he called on a group of five ministers for a spiritual recharge.

Like previous prayer calls, this one was more personal than political.

"He certainly does not ask us how we would run the country and what issue to pursue or not pursue," said Bishop Charles Blake of the Los Angeles-based Church of God in Christ, who was on the phone last December.

For 10 minutes, the president and the pastors prayed for peace, an economic recovery, protection for U.S. soldiers, and for Obama to be guided by a wisdom and power beyond himself.

Glimpses into Obama's spiritual life have been rare since he became president. He split with his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after the fiery minister nearly derailed Obama's campaign, and has not joined a church in Washington.

Conservatives pray with 'Liberal' trading cards

WASHINGTON -- Attention Californians: Your governor has just been adopted. Next up: your bleeding-heart senator, Barbara Boxer, and not far behind, her Democratic colleague, Dianne Feinstein.

Not by a new set of parents, mind you, but rather an army of conservative prayer warriors committed to restoring "poor leaders to right thinking."

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