After attending a friend's educational--and delicious--Scotch tasting on Saturday evening, the wife and I headed home where I wasted no time in turning on C-SPAN as if it were a Georgia Bulldogs football game. The reason? Live coverage of the House of Representatives voting on H.R. 3962 the "Affordable Health Care for America Act." Was my rush to watch this nerdishly wonky? Admittedly so. Do I regret it? Not at all. In fact, I own it proudly. Watching the House vote 220-215 in favor of health reform was for me a small part of what I'm hoping becomes a much larger, history-making success. I can't know whether President Obama will end up signing health reform into law, but I do know that I don't want to miss any key part of the process in the hopes that it does happen.
If we are to assess reform's progress, other than saying we are farther along than anyone has been since LBJ, we need a way to gauge that progress. By my count, there are at least 10 votes that health reform legislation must make it through. These are the 3 House committee votes (Education & Labor, Energy & Commerce, and Ways & Means), the 2 Senate committee votes (HELP and Finance), followed by a floor vote in both the House and Senate, and another round of floor voting on the consensus bill that emerges from conference committee. Finally, the President is a one-person vote--either signing or vetoing the legislation. Now, you can argue that there may need to be a vote for cloture in the Senate, or that getting a single bill out of conference represents a major hurdle, and you'd be right, but I'm really focusing on the major checkpoints here. Besides, 10 makes for a rather handy figure when one's calculating percentages.
So, using the 10-vote progress meter, where did Saturday's House vote get us? According to my math, we're 60% of the way to the finish line. That's better than half way, but it leaves a lot of ground still to cover. Here's what the President had to say about it:
The first was the historic vote the House took last night on health insurance reform. For years we've been told that this couldn't be done. After all, neither chamber of Congress has been able to pass a comprehensive health insurance reform bill for generations. But last night the House proved differently.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don't; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. It is legislation that is fully paid for and it will reduce our long-term federal deficit.
Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation I know that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress, and I'm grateful to them and for the rest of their colleagues for taking us this far. But more importantly, so are the millions of Americans whose lives will change when we achieve insurance reform -- families with preexisting conditions who will finally have insurance coverage; parents who will be protected from annual and lifetime limits that can force them to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for a child's illness; small businesses that will finally be able to cover their employees; and working folks who will finally be able to afford health insurance for the very first time.
Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people. And I'm absolutely confident that they will. I'm equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they'll be able to join their House colleagues and say that this was their finest moment in public service -- the moment we delivered change we promised to the American people and did something to leave this country stronger than we found it.
In sum and with an appeal to Robert Frost, Saturday's vote is a good start, but we've got miles to go before we sleep.
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