Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Thursday that the country is close to the "end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America's health care system."
The government is "finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful" reform, he said at the White House shortly after the Senate passed a sweeping $871 billion health care bill.
The president called the reform measure the most important piece of social legislation since the passage of Social Security in the 1930s.
He praised both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for passing bills through their respective chambers, and he called on Congress to "take up the last and most important step" of merging the two bills.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/24/art.debt1.cnn.jpg caption="Debt has more than doubled since 2000."]New York (CNNMoney.com) - With the federal government inching close to the debt ceiling, the Senate on Thursday passed a $290 billion increase to the amount of debt the Treasury is allowed to have.
The 60-39 vote follows House approval earlier this month of the same measure. President Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.
The new law raises the debt ceiling to $12.394 trillion from $12.104 trillion.
Related: What's the fuss?
As of Tuesday, the amount of debt subject to the limit on Treasury's books was $12.04 trillion, just $64 billion below the limit.
The increase is estimated to cover Treasury's borrowing needs through mid-February.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - The health care reform bill approved by the Senate on Thursday would do more than any proposal yet to reduce the deficit over time – by an estimated $132 billion over 10 years and by substantially more thereafter.
But reducing the deficit is not entirely synonymous with the oft-stated goal of health reform: reducing the growth rate in health care costs and expenditures – often referred to as "bending the cost curve."
That growth rate is what drives federal spending on Medicare and other federal health programs.
And it's what budget experts say will pummel the federal budget in future years if nothing is done to change it.
So how would the Senate bill fare in bending the cost curve from the perspective of the federal budget? The short answer is the ever-unsatisfying "it depends."
Washington (CNN) - The Senate passed a sweeping $871 billion health care reform plan Thursday morning, giving President Barack Obama a major victory on his top domestic priority.
The bill passed in a strict 60 to 39 party line vote. Every member of the Democratic caucus backed the measure; every Republican opposed it.
The Senate bill now has to be merged with a roughly $1 trillion plan approved by the House of Representatives in November. Democrats will have to bridge differences on a range of thorny issues, including how to pay for a compromise plan, language relating to abortion coverage, and whether to include a government-run public health insurance option.
Democratic leaders hope to have a bill ready for Obama's signature before the president's State of the Union address early next year.
Washington (CNN) - Despite the bruising battle over their health care reform proposals, congressional Democrats have maintained an advantage over their Republican counterparts on one key measure, according to a new national poll.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that a bare majority of Americans, 51 percent, believe that the Democrats' policies are good for the country, with 46 percent saying that those policies would take the country in the wrong direction.
By contrast, 53 percent of people questioned in the poll say that the GOP's polices would move the nation in the wrong direction, with 42 percent saying Republican policies are good for the country.
"The numbers for both parties are virtually unchanged since late August, just before President Barack Obama's health care speech to Congress opened the latest round of debate on this divisive issue," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
Compiled by Alison Harding
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com
CNN: Senate reform bill passes last hurdle en route to passage
The Senate health care bill cleared a third and final procedural hurdle Wednesday as Democrats successfully limited remaining debate time on the $871 billion measure.The Senate voted 60-39 along party lines to set a timetable for likely passage of the bill early Thursday morning.
CNN: House Democrats making plans for final health care bill
House Democrats are already home for the holidays, but they huddled on a conference call Wednesday afternoon to discuss the next steps in negotiating a final health care bill with the Senate.Speaker Nancy Pelosi restated that the goal is to get a final bill to the president's desk before his State of the Union address in late January or early February, but she admitted the timeline could slip, according to two senior Democratic aides who were on the call.
Wall Street Journal: Firms Warn of Cuts to Benefits
Some of the biggest employers in the U.S. are warning that a provision in the Senate's proposed health-care overhaul could lead to cuts in retiree benefits and a sharp reduction in reported earnings next year. Companies including Boeing Co., Deere & Co., MetLife Inc. and Xerox Corp. plan to lobby Democratic leaders to drop the provision, which would change the tax status of payments for retiree health benefits.
Albany Times-Union: Skelos to Dems: Sue over health deal
The national health insurance reforms being hammered out in Washington D.C. are causing all sorts of headaches for New York Democrats, especially in light of stories that it may hurt the Empire State in terms of Medicaid reimbursement. Gov. Paterson has already leveled such criticism and both US Senators are drawing flak over why they didn’t or weren’t able to cut a Nebraska-style sweetheart deal (Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson is getting billions worth of new Medicaid assistance in exchange for his vote in support of the plan).
Washington Post: Gates proposes $2 billion in funds to aid unstable countries
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has proposed a major overhaul of the way the Pentagon and State Department do nation-building, seeking to end friction between the bureaucracies by putting them jointly in charge of three huge new funds aimed at stabilizing strife-ridden countries.
Washington Post: Iran warns that it will deal 'fiercely' with protesters
Iran's national police commander said demonstrators will face a fierce crackdown if their "illegal" activities continue, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Wednesday, following several days of anti-government protests and officials calling for the arrest of the political leaders of the opposition.
Wall Street Journal: Kerry Floats Plan to Visit Tehran
Sen. John Kerry has suggested becoming the first high-level U.S. emissary to make a public visit to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, a move White House officials say they won't oppose.