March 22, 2010— -- Sunday night's health care win meant more to President Obama than winning the White House, his close aide David Axelrod told ABC News today. But as Democrats celebrated, Republicans promised to have the legislation repealed -- even though it is expected to be signed into law by the president on Tuesday.
Axelrod said the president told him this morning, "You win the election, it's like the quarter finals -- but the goal is to get to the place where you actually make a difference. And last night, we did something that is going to make a positive difference for this country and for the American people for generations to come."
Republicans are vowing to fight the brand new health care bill and use it against Democrats in the mid-term election.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced bills today to repeal the health care bill. Twelve state attorneys general, all of whom are Republican, have already filed suits to block the bill on the grounds that its requirement that everyone have health insurance is unconstitutional. Four state legislatures have already passed laws blocking the bill.
Tuesday, the Senate is expected to take up a package of "fix-its" for the health care bill that were agreed to before the House vote. Senators have to pass the "fixes" before the bill can be fully implemented.
The Senate session is expected to be a madcap multi-day episode of parliamentary wrangling as Republicans try to delay the the bill.
Partisanship was on full display this afternoon as senators kicked off their session.
Republicans have "made it clear that they'll try to stop progress based on a technicality," House Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor. "But with the substance... they're powerless. The other side is still talking about the number of pages in the bill. We won't stop talking about the number of lives that we'll save."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans will continue to fight the reconciliation package.
"They may have won the vote but they lost the argument and the trust of the American people," McConnell said.
House Republicans are also pledging to continue the fight. Rep. Tom Price, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said on ABC's "Top Line" today that the goal of GOP members seeking to win back the majority is simple.
"I think what the message will be repeal this bill and reform or replace it with the kinds of things that are positive, that are patient-centered, that put patients and families and their doctors in charge of health care that actually address the insurance challenges we have, affordability and preexisting with fundamental solutions that respect patients, not that trust government," Price said.
"With all this euphoria that's going on, this inside-the-Beltway champagne toasting and all that, outside the Beltway the American people are very angry. And they don't like it, and we're going to try to repeal this, and we're going to have a very spirited campaign coming up between now and November, and there will be a very heavy price to pay for it," he said.
Once the gavel came down Sunday night, the Republican National Committee launched a "Fire Nancy Pelosi" Web site, gop.com/firepelosi. Less than 24 hours after the bill's passage, the site claims it has already raised over $600,000.
Not all Republicans are convinced their party made a savvy move by opposing the legislation and rejecting Obama's calls for bipartisanship.
David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said today, "If you lose something as important as this and you pick up some seats in 2010, great. Maybe you lose them in 2014. This bill will still be there forever."
Even as many Republicans raised objections, House Democratic leaders this afternoon signed the $938 billion bill in a ceremonious act. On Tuesday, President Obama will officially sign the bill in the East Room of the White House, after which he will travel to the Department of Interior to deliver remarks. In the audience will be lawmakers who voted for the bill, and people whose stories the president has used in the long fight to get the bill passed.
Today, Axelrod dismissed the controversy surrounding the legislation.
"I think any time you do something of magnitude, it is controversial," he said. "Social Security was controversial, Medicare was controversial."
When pressed on the fact that those social programs had been passed with bipartisan support, Axelrod said, "those were different times."
Even after the president signs the health care bill, the White House's work on the legislation is far from over. Obama will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, Thursday to explain to the public how the health care reform bill will affect them.
Iowa City was chosen because it's where then-Sen. Obama delivered his first major speech on health care reform as a presidential candidate, at the University of Iowa on May 29, 2007.
The Road to Health Care Overhaul
The House of Representatives passed the bill by a 219-212 vote late Sunday after a raucous day of debate and negotiation. Thirty-four Democrats voted "no" on the health care bill.
"He always believed our country was about expanding opportunity for more and more Americans, and I believe this, as he said, was the unfinished business of Americans," said Kennedy, who choked up when talking about his father. "This is a program for the middle class. Too often in America, they're the ones who are left out. ... Not now."
The road to passing health care was a turbulent one for Democrats. After anti-abortion Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., struck a deal with the Democratic leadership and the White House, they were bombarded with charges of supporting abortion.
As Stupak was speaking on the House floor Sunday, an unidentified Republican lawmaker shouted, "Baby Killer!"
Today, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, admitted that he was the one.
"While I remain heartbroken over the passage of this bill and the tragic consequences it will have for the unborn, I deeply regret that my actions were mistakenly interpreted as a direct reference to Congressman Stupak himself," Neugebauer said in a statement today.
"I have apologized to Mr. Stupak and also apologize to my colleagues for the manner in which I expressed my disappointment about the bill. The House Chamber is a place of decorum and respect. The timing and tone of my comment last night was inappropriate," he said.
Stupak and others agreed to vote for the health care bill in exchange for an executive order from Obama affirming no federal funding for elective abortion.
Some components of the health care bill will take effect right away, including helping older Americans pay for prescription drugs and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions.
Individuals with incomes of $200,000 or higher, and families with a combined income of $250,000 or higher, will see an increase in taxes.
By 2014, most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance or face penalties. Small businesses and the uninsured would have the option of shopping for coverage in health insurance exchanges -- marketplaces in which people could shop for and compare insurance plans. Those exchanges would be implemented in 2014. The bill greatly expands Medicaid and subsidies to the poor. Insurance companies would not be able to place lifetime caps or deny coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions.
ABC News' Sunlen Miller, Jake Tapper and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.