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President Barack Obama has asked the House to pass health care reform by March 18, one day before he heads overseas for a lengthy foreign trip.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the administration is targeting that date for the House to pass the Senate health care bill approved on Christmas Eve and a companion reconciliation package, which would then proceed to the Senate. Gibbs, speaking at his daily briefing, said White House aides believe the timetable is realistic.

“I literally believe that what I said on a television show this morning was the president leaves for Indonesia and Australia on March 18, and we believe that — I believe that, based on conversations that I’ve had in the building, that we’re on schedule to get this through the House by then,” Gibbs said, according a White House transcript.

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