There's no questioning the historic nature of the vote. What the Democrats did to get there is pretty ugly (I can't believe we cut a deal with anti-woman C-Street true believer Bart Stupak), but we did get there, and most people will see some real improvements in their lives as a result. Now it's on to the Senate, where hopefully women's rights won't be treated as peripheral to the political process.
And in the meantime, John Boehner warns us that the bill "will dim the light of freedom." Uh huh.
Hours after President Obama exhorted Democratic lawmakers to "answer the call of history," the House hit an unprecedented milestone on the path to health-care reform, approving a trillion-dollar package late Saturday that seeks to overhaul private insurance practices and guarantee comprehensive and affordable coverage to almost every American.
After months of acrimonious partisanship, Democrats closed ranks on a 220-215 vote that included 39 defections, mostly from the party's conservative ranks. But the bill attracted a surprise Republican convert: Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana, who represents the Democratic-leaning district of New Orleans and had been the target of a last-minute White House lobbying campaign. GOP House leaders had predicted their members would unanimously oppose the bill.
Democrats have sought for decades to provide universal health care, but not since the 1965 passage of Medicare and Medicaid has a chamber of Congress approved such a vast expansion of coverage. Action now shifts to the Senate, which could spend the rest of the year debating its version of the health-care overhaul. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to bring a measure to the floor before Thanksgiving, but legislation may not reach Obama's desk before the new year.
At the Capitol, Obama urged the few Democrats who were still wavering on Saturday afternoon to put aside their political fears and embrace the bill's ambitious objectives. "Opportunities like this come around maybe once in a generation," he said afterward. "This is our moment to live up to the trust that the American people have placed in us. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. This is our moment to deliver."
The House legislation would for the first time require every individual to obtain insurance, and would require all but the smallest employers to provide coverage to their workers. It would vastly expand Medicaid and create a new marketplace where people could obtain federal subsidies to buy insurance from private companies or from a new government-run insurance plan.
Though some people would receive no benefits -- including about 6 million illegal immigrants, according to congressional estimates -- the bill would virtually close the coverage gap for people who do not have access to health-care coverage through their jobs.