A year marked by heated debate and inflamed passions has brought the nation to this historic moment: By a final vote of 219 to 212, the House of Representatives passed the controversial and much-debated comprehensive health care bill Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, "The bill is passed," sparking cheers and applause from House Democrats on the floor. They celebrate a measure that at times seemed unlikely to survive; a giant step toward the hope of universal health care in the nation. While the bill is not without its share of flaws, President Obama still calls the measure "major reform." During his speech in the East Room, the president told the nation, "This is what change looks like. We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people."
Pamela on Politics: The Yeas Have It. This is What Change Looks Like.
Meanwhile, Republican opponents were quick to speak out against the measure. House Minority Leader John Boehner said, "We have failed to listen to America and we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents. And when we fail to reflect that will, we fail ourselves and we fail our country."
But the 32 million people the bill may soon cover likely do not share Boehner's perspective. Universal coverage is a prospect that especially resonates with African Americans, who make up at least 20 percent of the uninsured. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus weighed in on the special importance the bill holds for our community.
“To those who suffer from health disparities, our vote carries significance similar to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in that it fulfills a dream that has been elusive for far too long and for far too many Americans,” said CBC Chair Barbara Lee.
Majority Whip James Clyburn echoed those sentiments, calling this "the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century... a significant step to move our country forward."
But moving this bill forward will take plenty of work in the week ahead. While the president could sign the bill as soon as Tuesday, the Senate will begin work on discussing any new changes to it. That could set us up for a new round of heated debates, and dashed hopes.