WASHINGTON — Cheers erupted on the House floor Sunday night as the vote count hit 216, the magic number of representatives needed to pass the Senate’s health care reform bill through the House. Later this week, President Obama will sign into law the largest single reform of the nation’s health care system since the creation of Medicare in 1965.
The final tally was 219 in favor to 212 against, with no Republicans voting in favor. As expected, Democrats Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar and Tim Walz voted in favor of the bill, while Democrat Collin Peterson joined Republicans John Kline, Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen in opposing the measure.
This bill isn’t perfect, advocates said. Ellison and McCollum wanted a public option (they still haven’t given up on that), while Oberstar and Walz held out until almost the bitter end in an effort to remedy geographic disparities in Medicare rates (the compromise they and McCollum signed on to wasn’t as good as they wanted, but was better than what they had).
“Tonight’s enormous,” Ellison said. “It’s up there with the civil rights bill, its up there with Medicare, it’s up there with Social Security. It will be part of the economic/social/political framework of America within five years, it will be how we live.”
A reconciliation bill containing “fixes” to the approved health care bill now heads to the Senate, where Republicans said they plan to raise a host of procedural objections to the bill’s applicability under budget reconciliation rules. Meanwhile in the House, Kline and Bachmann pledged to fight to repeal the legislation starting as soon as it’s signed.
“Today’s votes were a loss for the American people, but the battle is far from over,” Kline said in a statement following the vote. “We must now begin working to undo the government takeover of health care and replace it with meaningful reforms that will finally bring down health care costs.”