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Health Care Debate Shows Ideological Split


Nearly four hours of debate in the House of Representatives produced a partisan victory for President Obama and his party. But it also showed just how divided America is on health care and on the larger issue of the role of government.

The victory gives the Mr. Obama bragging rights that he delivered on his top domestic agenda campaign promise.

The Senate health care reform bill won final passage in the House by a narrow 219-212 majority. Republicans were quick to point out that Democrats were alone in voting for the bill. Only the opposition vote was bipartisan as 34 Democrats joined with all 178 Republicans in casting "no" votes against the measure.

As Democrats and Republicans alternated statements during the Sunday night debate, the health care bill was portrayed as either "historic" or "deeply flawed."

"It's a defining moment in our nation's history," said Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC. "This is the civil rights act of the 21st century."

But Rep. John Kline, R-MI., decried the bill as being full of backroom deals and the product of closed-door negotiations. "This bill is not what the American people want," he said. "They're imploring us to start over."

Democrats and Republicans both claimed to be hearing the true voices of the American people in defending their support for or opposition to the health care bill. And polls showed there were powerful voices on both sides of the issue.

Yet in the months leading up to the mid-term elections in November, President Obama will still have to make the case that the changes in health care coverage imposed by the bill are good for everyone.

White House

Out of sight of reporters, Mr. Obama exchanged high-fives and hugs with Vice-President Joe Biden and other senior advisors in the Roosevelt Room as they watched the health care bill win House approval.

In public, the President was careful not to appear to be gloating about his political triumph, but neither was he shy about trumpeting that this was a "momentous" day and that "we answered the call of history."

"This isn't radical reform," he insisted, while at the same time he was proud to declare "it is major reform."

It was his adopted bill that will soon be law and that means he's got new and expanded responsibility for the U.S. health care system. Some provisions won't take effect for years, and if Americans have complaints about their health coverage, they'll take them to the White House.

For that reason, even as Mr. Obama hailed the changes that will soon be in place, he tried to temper expectations.

"This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system," he said in his late night statement in the East Room, "but it moves us decisively in the right direction."

The American people will be able to register their assessment of the health care overhaul, when they elect the new Congress in November.

More Coverage of Health Care Reform:

House Passes Health Care Bill
Obama: "This is What Change Looks Like"
Health Care Vote: How Each Representative Voted
Announcement of the Vote
Boehner Tells Democrats: Shame on You
Pelosi Urges House to "Make History"
Health Care Bill: What's In It?
Short-Term Effect of the Bill
What, Me Worry? Obama Watches Basketball
Stupak Called "Baby Killer" for Backing Bill Special Report: Health Care

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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