How did Obamacare pass in Congress?


Quick Answer

Obamacare was able to pass into law because, for a brief period of time, the Democratic Party held the White House, a majority in the House of Representatives and a supermajority in the Senate all at the same time. Obamacare is officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

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Full Answer

Obamacare, President Barack Obama's overhaul of the health insurance system, needed to pass through both chambers of Congress to become a law. The seeds for this passing were sown during the 2008 elections. That evening, the Democratic party came away with a 257 to 199 seat advantage in the House, and Obama was elected president.

In the Senate, the Democrats gained eight seats to hold 57 out of 100 seats. At the time, there were two Independent Senators, and each was expected to vote for the law. The Democrats needed one more seat in the Senate to gain a supermajority, which is 60 seats, and ensure that the Republicans would be unable to block the passage with a filibuster.

This 60th seat would come unexpectedly, when Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat on April 28, 2009. On December 24, 2009, the Senate passed the Obamacare bill by a 60 to 39 vote. It would take another three months for the House and Senate bills to be reconciled. President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010.

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