In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous.
The 220-215 vote cleared the way for the Senate to begin a long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.
Never fear opponents of health care reform, this vote doesn't necessarily bring health care reform all that much closer to passage. This barely passed the House. It will have a much higher hurdle in the Senate.
Of course, we still have no idea what will be in the final legislation. That's because the Senate version will look totally different than the House, if there is a Senate version at all. Then, merging the two will go on behind closed doors.
For all those in support of health care reform that think this is monumentous, remember the House passed climate change legislation earlier in the year by a slightly wider margin with more Republican support. That legislation is languishing in the Senate. It's nowhere near becoming law.
The Senate will be lucky to put something out by the end of the year. It has almost no chance of passing the Senate before the end of the year. That will put this debate into 2010. It's nearly impossible to pass anything this controversial that close to an election. I'm still sticking with the prediction that sweeping health care reform, at least, will not pass.
Thirty nine Democrats voted against the bill and one Republican, Joseph Cao, voted for the bill.