The House passed a sweeping energy and climate change bill early this evening, after Democratic leaders and the White House spent the day appealing to holdouts to carry them to the 218 votes needed to assure a win.
The vote was 219-212, sending Democrats into the recess with a high-profile win, while giving angry Republicans an issue that they hope to turn into a vote magnet during next year's elections.
"I really, truly believe that this is the defining bill" of the 111th Congress, House Minority Leader Boehner said as he closed the Republican case against the measure, leaving unstated that he didn't mean it in a positive way.
Boehner extended the debate beyond the specified three hours with a painstaking, one-hour-and-one-minute review of provisions that were tucked into a manager's amendment that was filed in the wee hours of Friday. "This is not the way we should be legislating," he said.
After Boehner's marathon, House Speaker Pelosi took just about a minute to conclude debate. "We cannot hold back the future," she said, adding that the legislation was about "jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs."
Republicans characterized the bill as a job-killing, tax-raising anchor that would hurt the economy for years to come. They were especially critical of a cap-and-trade program that supporters said would help ease the global warming crisis.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., asked permission to hold a moment of silence "to recognize those who will lose their jobs because of this bill." His request was denied.
Democrats said the legislation would create millions of jobs, hasten the day when alternative energy sources would help curb the nation's appetite for foreign oil, and lead to a reduction of greenhouse gases.
The outcome was not certain for much of the day, as Democrats pulled out all the stops to carry the vote, including private meetings in Pelosi's office, personal calls from President Obama and overt suggestions that certain districts would benefit from projects the bill would fund.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., arrived in the chamber late in the debate, making his first appearance since he checked into a rehabilitation facility earlier in the month. He was greeted with hugs from Pelosi and Hoyer.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, started the day by issuing a statement saying he would vote against the bill. Hours later, in a floor speech, he announced he would support it. "I struggled deeply about whether to support this flawed bill, but I finally determined that voting for it was my best hope for making it better," he said.
And freshman Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who was still on the fence late in the afternoon, said he would back the bill after Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman said the legislation might finance research for a new $50 million National Hurricane Research Center in his district.
Waxman stopped short of promising the financing, but Republicans used the exchange as evidence that Democrats were making deals of all kinds to win enough votes.
"I want to tell members, if you haven't made your deal yet, come to the floor," House Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton said. "I want to commend Mr. Waxman; at least he's now doing it in public."
Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, himself a heavy skeptic of the bill's cap-and-trade program earlier in the negotiations, defended the brokering. "Deals are a means of bringing people together and coming up with a better bill," he said.
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