The U.S. Senate has passed a highly divisive health care reform bill by a strict party-line vote. Democrats mustered the bare-minimum 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster. The Senate bill is very different from the version of health care reform passed by the House of Representatives in November, especially in that it does not include the so-called ‘public option.’ The two bills will now proceed to a conference committee to reconcile their differences.

Presuming that the two drastically-different Senate and House bills can be reconciled, they will then return to each house of Congress for another vote. Assuming final passage in Congress, the final bill will then proceed to the president for his signature and become law.

Health care reform has been among the foremost policy efforts undertaken by President Barack Obama (D) since he took office. It has proven to be a very contentious and controversial issue, both in the government and among the general public. According to most recent polls, a plurality of Americans oppose the Democratic health care plans working their way through Congress. Many recent polls show public opposition well over 50 percent.