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Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, the only Republican to vote “yes” for the House bill, said he was initially skeptical of the measure, but decided to support it after House leaders late Friday inserted “strong language” prohibiting the federal funding of abortions.

“When that was worked out … I called the White House and said I could possibly support the bill,” he said Sunday on CNN.

Mr. Cao, a first-term lawmaker who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans, said he also supported the measure “because a lot of my constituents are uninsured, a lot of them are poor, and it was the right decision for the people of my district.”

President Obama on Sunday congratulated the House for its “historic” vote for health care reform and urged the Senate to follow suit.

“For years, we were told that this couldn’t be done … but last night the House proved differently,” Mr. Obama said during an early-afternoon news briefing at the White House Rose Garden.

The president, acknowledging that many moderate and conservative Democrats had been wary of supporting legislation that isn’t universally popular in their home districts, thanked the bill’s supporters for their “courageous” vote.

“Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation, I know that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress,” he said. “I am grateful to them and for the rest of their colleagues for taking us this far.”

The president said the Senate now must “take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line.” He added that he is “absolutely confident” the chamber will pass the measure.

“I am equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House, and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they’ll be able to join their House colleagues and say this was their finest moment in public service,” he said.