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House Tentatively Approves Medicare Bill

November 22, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Republican-controlled House tentatively approved sweeping Medicare drug bill early Saturday in an epic struggle settled near dawn. The vote was 220-215.

The vote capped an extraordinary roll call that began at 3 a.m. and dragged on for roughly three hours before the GOP leadership could overcome a rebellion by conservatives in their own ranks and the nearly unanimous opposition of Democrats.

Across the Capitol, Senate supporters of the bill expressed growing confidence they also would prevail. President Bush is eager to sign the bill, which would give 40 million seniors and disabled Americans a prescription drug benefit and a new option for private health care coverage.

``After this legislation goes into effect, low-income seniors will never be confronted with the choice of putting food on the table or paying for life-saving prescription drugs,″ House Speaker Dennis Hastert said well after midnight, just before the lights dimmed in the chamber to signal the beginning of the longest roll call in the history of the House.

But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said seniors know that her party gave birth to Medicare during the Great Society, adding, ``we want to protect it and strengthen it. America’s seniors have also known where Republicans stand, for four decades they have waged war on Medicare.″

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