Health Care bill clears key Senate test

Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 1:43 AM
Last updated 8:46 AM
  • Follow Latest News

WASHINGTON -– Senate Democrats won a crucial test vote on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, putting them on track for passage before Christmas of the historic legislation to remake the nation's medical system and cover 30 million uninsured.

All 58 Democrats and the Senate's two independents held together early Monday against unanimous Republican opposition, providing the exact 60-40 margin needed to shut down a threatened GOP filibuster.

The vote came shortly after 1 a.m. with the nation's capital blanketed in snow, the unusual timing made necessary in order to get to a final vote by Christmas Eve presuming Republicans stretch out the debate as much as the rules allow. Despite the late hour and a harshly partisan atmosphere, Democrats' spirits were high.

"Today we are closer than we've ever been to making Sen. Ted Kennedy's dream of universal health insurance coverage a reality," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said ahead of the vote, alluding to the late Massachusetts senator who died of brain cancer in August.

"Vote your hopes, not your fears. Seize the moment," Harkin urged colleagues.

Kennedy's widow, Vicki, watched the vote from the visitor's gallery along with administration officials who have worked intensely on the issue. Senators cast their votes from their desks, a practice reserved for issues of particular importance.

The outcome was preordained after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrangled his fractious caucus into line over the course of the past several months, culminating in a frenzy of last-minute deals and concessions to win over the final holdouts, independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and conservative Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Nelson said this morning that the Senate health care bill isn't perfect but that he voted to advance the proposal to help control costs.

He issued a statement early Monday defending his vote, saying that while "change is never easy" it is needed in this case because so many are struggling to pay for health care. Nelson's support was crucial – he provided the 60th vote Democrats needed to choke off a GOP filibuster. But he's facing criticism from Republicans in his home state because of his support of the bill.

Nelson says he's glad the health care bill doesn't include a government-run health care plan, and it does include language to restrict taxpayer funding of abortions. Abortion foes say the bill's language isn't strong enough.

Obama's oft-stated goal of a bipartisan health bill was not met, despite the president's extensive courtship of moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican to support the bill in committee. Obama called Snowe to the White House for lengthy in-person meetings both before he left for climate talks in Copenhagen and after his return on Saturday. In the end Snowe said she was "extremely disappointed" in what she called a rushed process that left scant time for her to review, much less amend, the bill.

Even so, the vote represented a major victory for Democrats and Obama, who's now clearly in reach of passing legislation extending health coverage to nearly all Americans, a goal that's eluded a succession of past presidents. The legislation would make health insurance mandatory for the first time for nearly everyone, provide subsidies to help lower-income people buy it, and induce employers to provide it with tax breaks for small businesses and penalties for larger ones.

Two more procedural votes await the Senate, each requiring 60 votes, the first of these set for Tuesday morning. Final passage of the bill requires a simple majority, and that vote could come as late as 7 p.m. on Thursday, Christmas Eve, or the day before if Republicans agree.

Although Democrats are expected to prevail in the votes over the next several days, the final outcome remains unpredictable, because the Senate measure must be harmonized with the health care bill passed by the House in November before final legislation can be sent to Obama's desk.

There are significant differences between the two measures, including stricter abortion language in the House bill, a new government-run insurance plan in the House bill that's missing from the Senate version, and a tax on high-value insurance plans embraced by the Senate but strongly opposed by many House Democrats.

After Monday's vote a number of Senate Democrats warned that the legislation could not change much and expect to maintain support from 60 senators. House Democrats are sure to want to alter it but may have to swallow it mostly whole.

"It took a lot of work to bring this 60 together and this 60 is delicately balanced," Lieberman said.

Republicans are determined to give Democrats no help, eager to deny Obama a political victory and speculating openly that the health care issue will hurt Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.

"There will be a day of accounting," warned John Cornyn, R-Texas, accusing Democrats of pushing a health overhaul opposed by the public. "Perhaps the first day of accounting will be Election Day 2010."

At their core the bills passed by the House and pending in the Senate are similar. Each costs around $1 trillion over 10 years and is paid for by a combination of tax and fee increases and cuts in projected Medicare spending. Each sets up new insurance marketplaces called exchanges where uninsured or self-employed people and small businesses can compare prices and plans designed to meet some basic requirements. Unpopular insurance practices such as denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions would be banned, and young adults could retain coverage longer under their parents' insurance plans – through age 25 in the Senate bill and through age 26 in the House version.

Reid cut numerous last-minute deals to get the votes he needed and powerful Democrats also inserted home-state provisions in a 383-page package of amendments Reid filed this weekend to the 2,074-page bill.

Among other items, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., included a provision allowing residents of the town of Libby, Mont., who are suffering asbestos-related illnesses from a mining operation to get Medicare benefits. Nelson won a list of benefits for Nebraska including a commitment for the federal government to pick up the full tab of an expansion of Medicaid. And Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who faces a difficult re-election, inserted a $100 million item for construction of a university hospital that his spokesman said he hopes to claim for the University of Connecticut.

Comments (123) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 12/21/09 - 04:54 am
0
0
Well, here we go.

Well, here we go.

Dixieman
17410
Points
Dixieman 12/21/09 - 05:43 am
0
0
No no no no no no no!!

No no no no no no no!! Please God save us from this monstrosity!

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 12/21/09 - 06:15 am
0
0
At this point, this horrible

At this point, this horrible bill has just been closed for debate. It has two more votes to pass before going back to committee to be wedded with the horrible bill from the house. The joint session should be interesting since both horrible bills are horrible in different ways. By the bye, this is the exact method Chavez used to become dictator for life after being elected "president" of Venezuela. I'm wondering if there WILL be a 2010 election.

Notreally
4
Points
Notreally 12/21/09 - 07:06 am
0
0
Every 10 minutes, Oh God help

Every 10 minutes, Oh God help us.

Notreally
4
Points
Notreally 12/21/09 - 07:10 am
0
0
Denial and Benefits for

Denial and Benefits for existing conditions mmmm Lord Help us.

sgachief
0
Points
sgachief 12/21/09 - 08:16 am
0
0
dims are dummies. dims are

dims are dummies. dims are dummies. nelson drank the koolaid. idiot dims.

bentman
466
Points
bentman 12/21/09 - 08:45 am
0
0
And of course all members of

And of course all members of Congress won't have to endure any part of the law included in this bill.

Runner46
0
Points
Runner46 12/21/09 - 08:46 am
0
0
Here is the scam. The cost is

Here is the scam. The cost is pro-rated by age and mandatory for everyone. Coverage and cost is NOT the same across the board. No Age limit? Eventually replaces Medicare????

Here is an analysis from a West Coast newspaper.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-healthcare-qa21-2009d...

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 09:34 am
0
0
Shhhh Runner, the sheeple are

Shhhh Runner, the sheeple are sleeping off last nights victory booze.

justthefacts
25063
Points
justthefacts 12/21/09 - 09:55 am
0
0
RIP, saw I got zapped last

RIP, saw I got zapped last night for calling Ben Nelson a, well you know, what, lady of the night? What else do you call someone who sells their dignity/integrity for money?

UncleStrom
2
Points
UncleStrom 12/21/09 - 10:00 am
0
0
"Madame Speaker"

"Madame Speaker"

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 10:01 am
0
0
JTF: Congressperson, Mr

JTF: Congressperson, Mr President, Richmond County Commissioner, just to name a few quickies.

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 10:02 am
0
0
I also hope you saw the two

I also hope you saw the two posts I made immediately after your being zapped which proved your point beyond doubt.

AnotherPerspective
0
Points
AnotherPerspective 12/21/09 - 10:22 am
0
0
So if you buy a vote with

So if you buy a vote with private money, it's bridery. If you do it with tax dollars, it's called politics. I guess that is to be expected when the bill was written behind closed doors, revealed moments before a vote and approved literally in the middle of the night. That's transparency.

UncleStrom
2
Points
UncleStrom 12/21/09 - 10:22 am
0
0
Did y'all notice that that

Did y'all notice that that tanning bed surcharge stayed in the senate version but the elective plastic surgery (aka botox tax) was removed? I wonder why that was.......

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 10:26 am
0
0
Strom, you answered yourself

Strom, you answered yourself in your 10.00 am post.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 12/21/09 - 10:46 am
0
0
It is interesting to note

It is interesting to note what the AARP appears to have done to its members -- in a gamble to get younger members it seems to have sacrificed its older constitutes -- the organization’s future, believes its senior management is in people under 50 -- so they threw current Medicare precipitants under the bus -- the proposed cuts in Medicare seem to be at the expense of the older members which they seem to have written off -- I see a new organization taking away AARP’s current status as being representative of senior America.

RichmondCountyResident1
29
Points
RichmondCountyResident1 12/21/09 - 10:50 am
0
0
The headline should

The headline should read,"Insurance Company's Bribe Fail to Stop Healthcare Reform'. Every ten minutes an American die for lack of healthcare coverage. The majority of bankruptsies are due to medical bills. A lot of Americans have to choose between buying medicine and buying food. I say well done Democratic and Independent Senators. The Party of NO has sided against the American public once again. I have some champagne ready to add to my Christmas celebration after the bill clears the Senate.

UncleStrom
2
Points
UncleStrom 12/21/09 - 10:56 am
0
0
RCR - Pelosi says the house

RCR - Pelosi says the house will not give up the public option from their version. Reid threatened her not to attempt to put it back in the senate version. Obama has vowed not to sign any bill that does not contain the public option. Would you care to explain how this is all going to be resolved before Christmas/New Year/State of The Union Speech?

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 10:59 am
0
0
RCR explain anything?

RCR explain anything? hahahahahahaha, oh my, that's funny. Oh man, warn me before you do that, I only have one more keyboard.

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 11:05 am
0
0
I want to share a hilarious

I want to share a hilarious RCR joke I found.... ready? :..:. ..:.: :..:.:. :..: ::.:. :..:.: :::.: :...:: :..:. ..:.: :..:.:. :..:

RichmondCountyResident1
29
Points
RichmondCountyResident1 12/21/09 - 11:05 am
0
0
You guys need somebody to

You guys need somebody to argue with. But, I refuse to give your foolishness dialogue. If I'm not mistaken the Senate will need only a simple majority to pass the mediated version. I hope they add the public option, pass it and send it the president for signing. RIP is laughing to keep from crying.It's a great day in America!!!!

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 11:08 am
0
0
Actually, I'm crying with

Actually, I'm crying with laughter, Pongster.

UncleStrom
2
Points
UncleStrom 12/21/09 - 11:09 am
0
0
We shall see....enjoy that

We shall see....enjoy that bottle of Cold Duck while ya can, it might not taste so good in January.......Merry Christmas!

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 11:10 am
0
0
Enjoy Obama's pyrrhic victory

Enjoy Obama's pyrrhic victory (his words). You'll be back in your customary role (loser) by Christmas 2010. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

convertedsoutherner
2
Points
convertedsoutherner 12/21/09 - 11:13 am
0
0
Talk about the party of NO

Talk about the party of NO and you get the dim controlled congress. The dim fawning followers continue to forget that the dims are in majority in congress along with the incompetent and clueless prezbho. If this bill is so great, why has it taken so long for the dim controlled congress to vote in favor of moving this vote forward. Most of them haven't read the bill and have absolutely NO idea of what is in the over 2000 page rep bill and the over 2000 page senate bill. Lack of transparency = the dims in office. If you're not concerned - You're not paying attention...

UncleStrom
2
Points
UncleStrom 12/21/09 - 11:15 am
0
0
RCR - I agree, we need a

RCR - I agree, we need a democrat/liberal who will answer honest direct questions. I have not seen a single one on any of these boards -- ever. The reply is always an attempt to find "well he did it too" or "Fox lies" or something like that. One day one of y'all might actually study the current issues and get informed with facts so you can respond in an intelligent fashion. In the meantime, thanks for confirming what we know to be true about the level of pure ignorance of the Perfect Obama Supporters.

UncleStrom
2
Points
UncleStrom 12/21/09 - 11:23 am
0
0
Okay, let me try and simplify

Okay, let me try and simplify the question. Since all three of them can not deliver on what they have repeatedly promised and/or sworn to do, which one is lying? The White Female, The White Male or the Mixture in the Middle?

convertedsoutherner
2
Points
convertedsoutherner 12/21/09 - 11:24 am
0
0
Add up all the blackmail

Add up all the blackmail money that is being paid to get the votes to get the horrible healthcare bill passed. There are 2 senators we know about but other senators are being paid for their votes also. Millions and millions are being promised for these upstanding dims votes. Who do you think is paying for the vote buying blackmail? Be concerned - Be VERY concerned...

RIPAmerica
0
Points
RIPAmerica 12/21/09 - 11:26 am
0
0
CS: Those bribes may not

CS: Those bribes may not appear in any "reconciled" bill... wonder who will yell "bait and switch" at that time?

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs