Long Island's mostly Democratic Congressional delegation was jubilant as the U.S. House Sunday passed a health care overhaul plan that's driven the country's political debate since President Barack Obama took office.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights) said that in his 28 years in Congress he'd never seen Democrats so determined and filled with a sense that their mission was critical, even historic.
"It really doesn't get better than this," Ackerman said from Washington. "A very important thing happened here today."
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said debate over the bill produced strong emotions and divided her district. McCarthy said she ultimately backed the measure because change to the health system is so badly needed.
"By enacting these provisions right away we will be able to lower costs for everyone and give all Americans and small businesses more control over their health choices," McCarthy said. "This legislation is a long time due."
In remarks to the Congressional Record, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said debate over the bill had at times been heated and that Republicans distorted the measure, allowing ignorance and anger to fester.
Israel said he'd heard the loud voices, but also those that need the help the bill offers.
"They are the average Long Islanders - not rich, not poor, but usually somewhere in between - who live in quiet desperation and concern," Israel said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is the lone Republican among the Island's five-member House delegation. King called the bill "harmful legislation" that will result in "government regulation of health care."
A better approach, he said, would have been to address problems in the health system incrementally rather than attempting a comprehensive fix.
It's always hard to lose after investing so much in a contest, King said, but for the GOP there will be future victories.
"The fight goes on," he said.