Obama to sign health bill as attention shifts to Senate
US President Barack Obama will sign a major health reform bill into law on Tuesday just as attention shifts to the Senate, which is expected to begin debating another round of changes to the landmark legislation.
The sweeping overhaul aimed at expanding health coverage to about 32 million uninsured Americans was approved by the House of Representatives shortly before midnight Sunday, in a major victory for Democrats who have long made universal health insurance a top priority.
The House also passed a series of changes that must now go back to the US Senate, which approved the underlying legislation in December. Republican opponents promised to use a variety of procedural manoeuvres to slow progress in the Senate.
Obama will sign the main bill on Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, before helping to get the final revisions through the Senate later this week.
Obama plans to go back on the road to convince still-skeptical voters of the merits of the bitterly debated reforms. On Thursday he plans a speech in the Midwestern state of Iowa, Gibbs said.
The year-long debate has eroded the president's popularity and left the public deeply divided over the benefits of a health overhaul. Conservatives on Tuesday vowed to repeal the entire bill if they return to power.
"I assure you I am not quitting our fight. I believe we must repeal this bill immediately," said Senator John McCain, the Republican who challenged Obama for the presidency in 2008.
The health legislation emerged despite united Republicans, who argued that the most monumental changes to the health care sector in four decades were too costly and amounted to a dangerous government takeover.
The bill will for the first time require Americans to buy at least a basic form of health insurance coverage, and some conservative states have already threatened to challenge the constitutionality of that requirement in the courts.
The White House was confident the court challenges wouldn't be successful, Gibbs said Monday.