Months of acrimonious debate over health care reform reached a crescendo on Sunday night as the House passed health care reform 219 to 212 without any GOP support, handing a legislative trophy to President Obama and potent ammunition for Republicans in the fall elections.
The House vote approved a version passed in the Senate, came with just three votes to spare. After the voting closed, 34 Democrats had weighed in against the bill along with 178 Republicans, none of whom voted to support the legislation. A subsequent "reconciliation" bill also passed 220-211 about 45 minutes later.
Shortly after the House passed the bill, President Obama made a statement in the White House with Vice President Joe Biden at his side, saying "I know this wasn't an easy vote for a lot of people."
"Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics," he said. "We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling big challenges."
The president acknowledged that the vote would fan speculation that the bill's supporters would be vulnerable in fall elections, when angry voters could turn their wrath on Democrats at the polls. He predicted that after the debate fades away and the dust settles, "a systerm that works better for the American people" will remain.
Immediately following the vote, Georgia Republican Nathan Deal announced his retirement from the House, effectively immediately. He had previously announced his intention to leave the seat to run for governor.
The main vote on the bill itself came just before 11 pm., after hours of debate that culminated in a triumphant speech from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said "we tonight will make history for our country and progress for the American people." After the bill passed, she called the vote a "great act of patriotism."
"We believe that this act that was passed tonight is an all-American act, honoring our founders, bows to the futur, and honoring our commitment to the future by making it a healthier one and a fiscally sound one," she said.
Minority Leader John Boehner thunderously condemned those who supported the bill. Beginning with a quiet statement that "I rise tonight with a sad and heavy heart," the speech quickly rose in tone and tenor, particularly as Democrats tried to drown him out with jeers when he contradicted a central claim of the bill's supporters.
He accused House members of defying the American people, crying out "Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager's amendment? Hell no, you haven't!"
"Shame on us. Shame on this body," he said. "Shame on each and every one of you, who substitutes your will and your desire above those of your fellow countrymen."
Note: This posting was updated to add comments from the president, Deal's resignation, Pelosi comments, and other edits.