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More than a year after Congress began their health care reform effort, it officially came to an end today as the Senate and House both gave final votes of approval to the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010. The bill amends the bigger health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that President Obama signed into law earlier this week.

The Senate voted first this afternoon, passing the reconciliation bill on a 56-43 vote, with Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE], Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] and Sen. Mark Pry or [D, AR] crossing the aisle to vote with all Republicans agains it. The House followed suit later in the evening, voting 220-207 to agree to the bill and a few insignificant changes that were made to it in the Senate.

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What Happened to the Senate?

March 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The U.S. Senate prides itself on being the world's greatest deliberative body. But if you turn on C-SPAN 2 right now, you'll see a Senate devolved into thoughtless obstruction and petty politicking. For the Senate as an institution, there is nothing "great" about what they are going to spend the rest of the night doing.

Since Monday, the Senate has been trying to get to an up-or-down vote on the Reconciliation Act of 2010, which makes a series of "fixes" to the new health care reform law and reforms the student loan industry. It's being considered under budget reconciliation rules, which limits debate time to 20 hours and denies the minority the ability to filibuster.

But, even though they can't filibuster, Senate Republicans are blocking the vote by forcing the Senate into an absurd process known as a "vote-a-rama." It's what happens when the time that is set aside for debate on a bill has ended, but there are still amendments pending that need to be voted on. The remaining amendments are brought up one by one and, without debate, voted on quickly and either adopted or rejected. No deliberation.

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Sources are telling The Hill that the Democrats have decided to add a bill to eliminate government subsidies to student loan companies to the budget reconciliation bill that will iron out the differences between the Senate and House health care bills.

Senate Democratic leaders have decided to pair an overhaul of federal student lending with healthcare reform, according to a Democratic official familiar with negotiations.

"It's going in," said the Democratic source, in reference to the student lending measure.

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