WASHINGTON — Surprising no one, Alaska Rep. Don Young joined his Republican colleagues Sunday in voting against the most sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system to pass in two generations. The bill passed 219-212, with 34 Democrats voting with an all-Republican bloc.
Young, who took to the floor of the House twice over the past week to call the bill "gobbledygook," outlined his stance with a couple of pithy bumper sticker-like remarks on Twitter over the weekend, including: "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's free!"
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, had said she will not vote for the reconciliation bill when it returns to the Senate. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has said he will.
Sunday, after the vote, Young called it a "very bad day," saying the health care bill is "reform in name only."
"Today, a bill was rammed down the throats of good Americans who trust us to preserve their freedoms and today, those freedoms were stifled," he said. "What we passed is composed of ego and partisanship, and does nothing to help Alaskans and nothing to help our country," he said.
Young also referred to the rallies all weekend at the Capitol, where thousands of Tea Party supporters gathered to protest the legislation. They were opposed Sunday by thousands of health care supporters, who had been at an unrelated rally in support of immigration reform.
"Thousands gathered on the National Mall this weekend to let their voices be heard because they are scared," Young said in his statement. "They are scared that their liberties are being stomped on and they are scared of the government intrusion in their lives and they are right."
Demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol, angry over the proposed health care bill, on Saturday yelled a racial epithet at U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who was nearly beaten to death during an Alabama march in the 1960s.
Protesters also shouted obscenities at other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, spat on at least one black lawmaker and confronted an openly gay congressman with taunts.
Many Republicans, including the minority leader Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, decried the actions by some protesters. Boehner, appearing Sunday morning on NBC, called the actions by some protesters "reprehensible" and maintained that they were isolated incidents that shouldn't reflect on Tea Party participants as a whole.
The $940 billion health care overhaul would expand insurance to an estimated 32 million uninsured people, from about 83 percent of the population to 95 percent. An estimate released Thursday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found the House version of the bill would reduce federal budget deficits by $138 billion over the next decade.
Top House Democrats spent all week scrambling to put together the necessary 216 votes, and burst into raucous applause when they crossed the vote threshold in the first of two votes on the measure.