WASHINGTON - Democratic US House members celebrated a hard-fought, exhausting victory on health care reform on Sunday, one that Republicans vowed would cost them at the polls.
By the time of the final 220-211 vote on the reconciliation bill at 11,36pm, the long day seemed to encompass everything about a long year in the emotional, sometimes bitter fight over the legislation - political brinkmanship, angry protest, enthusiastic support and even rare moments of reasoned debate.
"I've worked on a lot of hard things, but this is harder than anything I've ever worked on. It's really the accomplishment of a career for a lot of us," said Democratic representative Diana DeGette of Denver, who got a call from President Barack Obama on Sunday afternoon thanking her for her work on the bill.
"It's a tragedy that we have this totally partisan bill coming from only one side," countered Republican Mike Coffman of Denver.
"Right now, I can't tell you how we'll feel tomorrow. We won't feel good," he said.
Passage was helped along by eight Democrats who voted no on the House bill in November, and who voted yes on Sunday, including Betsy Markey of Fort Collins.
"In November I made clear that I wanted to see a bill that meets the goals of affordability and coverage, improved access and that is also fiscally sustainable in the long term," she said. "This bill does all those things and more."
Democrats cast the day as the historic advancement in a decades-long policy debate over how to provide quality health care for most Americans, cheering "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!" on the House floor after the vote to approve the Senate version of the bill.
"Today marks the passing of a torch that was carried by Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Democrats like Bill Clinton," said Democrat John Salazar of Manassa. "Now, that torch lights the way for all Americans to enjoy a brighter, healthier future."
But with chants and jeers audible from protesters outside, the lawmakers conceded that it had unleashed anger and bitterness among opponents they had rarely seen. - New York Times