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Health care reform moves forward

After over a full year of health care debate, the House of Representatives passed the Senate's version of health care reform late Sunday night, 219–212.

In a speech given by President Barack Obama just after the passage of the bill, he described the bill as a "reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve." The speech he gave served to confirm to the American people that the promises he ran behind are coming to fruition. "This is what change looks like," he said.

Obama described the House decision as "not a victory for any one party.... It's a victory for the American people. And it's a victory for common sense."

However, it seems clear based on the vote counts this is truly a victory for the Democrats. It is their party, their leaders, and their majority in Congress that, eventually, allowed the bill to clear the House. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R–Ohio) stated that the bill was in "defiance of our citizens."

Following clear party lines, not a single Republican voted in support of the bill.

While Sunday's historic vote can be seen as decisive progress, the legislation is not yet complete. Apart from passing the bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve, the House also passed Sunday night a package of "fixes" that now needs to be returned to the Senate for approval. This process, called reconciliation, would align the differences between the House and Senate bills, in most cases siding with the Senate version or compromising between the two.

If the reconciliation package were to be passed in the Senate, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 would come into law, taking effect in 2014. Under the law, approximately 95 percent of legal U.S. residents under the age of 65 would have health coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO projected that the bill would cost approximately $940 billion, but it would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over 10 years when taking into account savings from Medicare and other programs.

For more information on comparisons between the House bill, Senate bill, and the reconciliation package passed by the House, see www.pbs.org/newshour/interactive/static/stories/healthcare-comparison.html.