The House came through for President Obama in his drive for health care reform, but that may be the last piece of good news on the subject that the president has for quite a while.

Even though the vote on the House bill, H.R. 3962, was a squeaker, passing only by a 220-215 tally, it was still a historic moment.  Yet, that is hardly the kind of momentum necessary to spur any kind of fast action in the Senate that the president wants.  

It was a nail-biter in the House right until the vote on Saturday evening, Nov. 7, with a flurry of compromises being made during the day, particularly on the issue of coverage for abortion.  In the end, the Democrats managed to siphon off one Republican vote, a representative from Louisiana.  Thirty-nine Democrats voted against it.

While there was a lot of high-fiving and cheering among the House Democratic leadership, particularly among those members who have been carrying the torch for universal health coverage for years if not decades, the White House is starkly aware that this fight is nowhere near over. 

The reality is that the finished product—if there is one—is going to look very little like the House bill.  The components of the Senate bills that Sen. Harry Reid is trying to conflate into one bill are already vastly different than the House bill. 

Then Reid is going to have the problem of getting the 60 votes necessary to even bring the bill to the Senate floor.  If and when it reaches the floor, the debate and chance for offering amendments are pretty much open-ended.

At this point I’d say that having a bill on President Obama’s desk by Christmas looks a lot more like wishful thinking than something that is likely to happen.   

But then, Virginia, it is the Senate and it is Washington we’re dealing with, after all, so you never know.