After more than a year of heated rhetoric, arm-twisting, cajoling and expending countless hours and energy of political capital, President Obama was overjoyed as his health care reform bill was passed by the House Sunday night.

On Tuesday morning in the East Room of the White House, Obama signed the bill into law, surrounded by his Democratic colleagues and a few invited guests.

“The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see,” he said, after being introduced by Vice President Joe Biden. “It will take four years to implement fully many of these reforms because we need to implement them responsibly.”

If it will take four years to implement many of the bill’s measures. It has taken the nation nearly a century to get this far. But now, after 14 administrations, the country finally has a health care bill that will provide insurance coverage for millions of Americans who were previously uninsured.

“This year, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions [and] the parents of children who have a pre-existing condition will finally be able to purchase the coverage they need,” Obama said to applause as he began to itemize some of bill’s immediate impact. “This year–this year, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick…and they won’t be able to place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive.”

Furthermore, he added, all the new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care. “And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26 years old,” he said, bringing the audience to its feet with resounding applause. Just as no Republicans voted for the bill, which tallied at 219 to 212, none were on hand to witness the historic occasion.

Though the president has signed the bill into law, there remains some unfinished business in the Senate, where the reconciliation portion looms, and the Republicans have promised another round of stubborn resistance.

“We’ve heard a lot today about how historic this bill is, and it’s true. It is an historic betrayal of the clear will of the American people,” said Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee. “It is an historic loss of liberty. It is an historic escalation of publicly funded abortions, no matter what executive order President Obama signs. This bill inserts big government right into the most personal, life-and-death moments a family can face.”

Steele added, “We will not surrender our liberties. We will not hand our children a poorer, weaker America than the one we inherited. Come November, the American people will have the last say.”

It appears that some Republicans are not content to wait until November and have promised to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the bill that mandates insurance for all Americans. At least 11 attorney generals, all Republicans, are ready to take this battle to the Supreme Court, and if the complaint gets that far, it should be well-received by four of the nine justices.

As if anticipating the Republican reaction, Obama charged, “We are a nation that faces its challenges and accepts its responsibilities. We are a nation that does what is hard, what is necessary, what is right. Here in this country, we shape our own destiny. That is what we do. That is who we are.”

Before signing the bill, Obama thanked the leaders in the room–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services; long-serving Rep. John Dingell of Michigan; and Nancy-Ann De Parle, who led the fight from the White House. He evoked the memories of the Roosevelts, the Clintons, the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson, all of whom at one time or another worked to make the moment possible.

“Today, I’m signing this reform bill into law on behalf of my mother, who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days,” Obama said before listing a number of other Americans currently battling to stay alive and the extent to which the new law will help them.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, with reservations, voiced his support of the bill. “The passage of the Health Care Reform Bill is a truly historic and unmatchable act in our lifetime,” he began in a statement to the press. “Though it does not have all of the elements that I would have wanted to see included, it will mean the difference of health for many poor people that otherwise would not have had health care coverage at all.

“A disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos who were a part of the over 30 million unemployed that were uninsured and a disproportionate amount of people with pre-existing conditions are closer to being equal Americans with this act,” Sharpton continued. “Let us go forward and finish the task. I salute President Obama and Speaker Pelosi at this great time in American history.”

At the close of his address, Obama said, “We have now just enshrined–as soon as I sign this bill–the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

“Yeah!” shouted someone in the audience unable to contain his enthusiasm.

“And it is an extraordinary achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the advocates all across the country,” Obama concluded.