Victory finally came, but only for those who were hanging onto the shreds of earlier wishes, and it wasn’t ever pretty. Watching C-SPAN on Sunday, in fact, was a little like watching grass grow, with every other blade sniping at the blade just around the corner. But at least that much is over.
Congress gave final approval on Sunday to legislation that would provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation’s health care system along the lines proposed by President Obama.
By a vote of 219 to 212, the House passed the bill after a day of tumultuous debate that echoed the epic struggle of the last year. The action sent the bill to President Obama, whose crusade for such legislation has been a hallmark of his presidency.
“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform,” Mr. Obama said after the vote. “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”
Minutes after thebill was approved, the House passed a package of changes to it and sent it to the Senate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has promised House Democrats that the Senate would quickly take up the reconciliation bill with the changes in it, and that he had secured the votes to pass it.
But while the Senate is bracing for a fierce floor fight over the reconciliation measure, the landscape was permanently altered by passage of the original Senate bill. Should the reconciliation bill, which cannot be filibustered, collapse for any reason, the core components of the Democrats’ health care overhaul would move forward. Indeed, Senate Republicans were quickly faced with a need to recalibrate their message from one aimed at stopping the legislation to one focused on winning back a sufficient number of seats in Congress to repeal it.
It was mean and divisive and ugly, and will surely get more so, but at least it’s a start. We can finally begin to reform what is a cruel and unworkable system. And maybe, just maybe, there will some day be access to health care for all. Does anyone remember when there was no Social Security or Medicare?