August 1, 2009 / 4:47 PM / in 10 years

Obama urges work on healthcare after committee vote

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting about healthcare at the Kroger Supermarket in Bristol, Virginia July 29, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday welcomed the latest vote by a House of Representatives committee on healthcare reform and urged lawmakers to keep up the momentum in the coming weeks.

The third and last House panel, the Energy and Commerce Committee, approved its healthcare legislation by a vote of 31-28 late on Friday after accepting changes to win votes of some fiscal conservatives and hold liberal support.

Five Democrats joined all the Republicans on the panel in voting against the bill.

“This historic step by the House Energy and Commerce Committee moves us closer to health insurance reform than we have ever been before,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Saturday.

“The bill that they have passed will strengthen consumer protections and choice, while lowering costs and improving care, underscoring the broad consensus among all of the bills that have emerged in Congress.”

Obama has made overhauling the $2.5 trillion healthcare system his top domestic priority this year. He aims to expand insurance coverage to most Americans and hold down skyrocketing growth in medical costs, which the president sees as central to long-term economic recovery.

As lawmakers prepare to return to their home states for a summer recess, the president pressed for more momentum.

“Over the next few weeks, we must build upon the historic consensus that has been forged, and do the hard work necessary to seize this unprecedented opportunity for the future of our economy and the health of our families,” Obama said.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Eric Beech

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