The finishing touch

THE FINISHING TOUCH…. After a painfully long, arduous process, Congress completed its work on health care reform last night. I know, I find it hard to believe , too.

Several hours after the Senate voted 56 to 43 to approve a reconciliation package, the House voted 220 to 207 to pass an identical measure. The combined total of Republican votes in support of reform in both chambers: zero.

The bill now goes to President Obama, who will likely sign it into law today — though probably with far less fanfare than Tuesday’s historic bill-signing ceremony.

By any reasonable measure, this package of amendments — often called the “sidecar” — makes a good bill better. The reconciliation fix improves subsidy rates for the middle class, delays implementation (and alters eligibility) of the excise tax, closes the Medicare “donut hole,” and requires insurers to allow young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until they’re 26.

And with that, the most ambitious and most important domestic policy initiative in nearly a half-century — after a few too many obituaries — is complete. Back in December, Jon Chait described the Affordable Care Act as “the greatest social achievement of our time” and “the most significant American legislative triumph in at least four decades.” I agree wholeheartedly.

And now we have one last phrase to use to describe health care reform: law of the land.