The Senate has passed its landmark health care reform bill along party lines — 60 Democrats for it and 39 Republicans against it — in a historic vote that means the House and Senate will now move to the pesky, some say politically explosive, task of trying to reconcile the two bills. But the net result: a win for Democrats and President Barack Obama in terms of getting a major piece of legislation out of the Senate and on track for a final version.
The Senate approved sweeping healthcare reform legislation by the narrowest of partisan margins early Christmas Eve morning, placing President Barack Obama closer than ever to signing a longtime Democratic priority into law.
The 60-39 tally split directly along partisan lines, with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) absent, underscoring not only the great divide between Democrats and Republicans but also the deftness with which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at long last united his fractious conference by offering key compromises to centrists but keeping liberals in the fold.
The Senate capped off a nearly monthlong floor debate with its near-record 25th consecutive day in session by holding a vote on Christmas Eve for the first time since debating the Vietnam War in 1963. The debate was marked by procedural gamesmanship and acrimonious partisan exchanges. Nevertheless, the outcome of Thursday’s vote, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding over the Senate, had been assured for days as Democrats put together 60 votes numerous times on procedural matters.
“Never before has the Senate found the resolve to make health insurance more affordable and health insurance companies more accountable until today,” Reid said after the vote. “This is a victory for the American people. Those fortunate enough to have health insurance will be able to keep theirs, and those who do not will be able to have health insurance.”
UPDATE: Here’s an AP video (from You Tube where embed codes were provided for websites to embed it) that gives Obama’s reaction to the vote:
The Washington Post:
Difficult issues must be still resolved in final negotiations with the House, which has passed more liberal health-care reform legislation. Those talks could stretch through January and perhaps into February, Democratic leaders said.
But Democrats are increasingly confident that President Obama will sign a bill into law in early 2010 that would prevent insurers from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, limit the amount individuals have to pay for their own care and require other reforms that Obama called “the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable.”
“We are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country,” Obama told reporters in a White House appearance shortly after the Senate vote. “Our challenge now is to finish the job.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has served notice that from his prespective and the GOPs’s the battle is far from over:
Republicans said the bill would impose massive regulatory and financial burdens on taxpayers and businesses, and would dig the government even deeper in debt. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told the chamber just before the vote that Democrats should expect an “earful” from angry constituents when they go home
“This fight is long from over,” Mr. McConnell said. “My colleagues and I will fight to ensure this bill doesn’t become law. That’s the clear will of the American people.”
ABC has this AP article with lots of reaction. Here is one quote:
….”Not even Ebenezer Scrooge himself could devise a scheme as cruel and greedy as Democrats’ government takeover of health care. Sen. Reid’s health care bill increases premiums for families and small businesses, raises taxes during a recession, cuts seniors’ Medicare benefits, adds to our skyrocketing debt, and puts bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by patients and doctors.” — House Minority Leader John Boehner, D-Ohio.
Go the link to read a lot more reaction.
Republican political maven Karl Rove’s reaction gives a preview of how Republicans will try and discredit the bill during campaign 2010 He begins this way in his Wall Street Journal piece:
By now Majority Leader Harry Reid’s explanation for how he is getting his health-care bill through the Senate has pinged its way across the country. “I don’t know if there is a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them,” he said this week. “And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.” But take these comments two steps further and it becomes clear that how Mr. Reid reached unanimity in his caucus could hurt Democrats more than they realize.
First, taking Mr. Reid at his word means every Democratic senator got something. That implies there are even more howlers to discover that will dog Democrats next year.
And he ends it this way:
Mr. Reid greased a Christmas Eve Senate passage of his bill, but he did so in a way that taints the product. It will hinder the Obama administration’s efforts to fashion a House-Senate conference bill, as well as that 40-year majority Democrats once thought was within their grasp.
Now read it from beginning to end.
Now that the Senate has passed landmark health-care legislation with a rare Christmas Eve vote, the hardest work of all will begin: reckoning with long-standing differences between the House and Senate versions of reform and uniting behind a single bill that can be sent to the president.
Democrats are already outlining a strategy to achieve a final compromise that can satisfy the more liberal House without upsetting the painstakingly assembled coalition of 60 Senate Democrats and independents who gave final passage to their bill Thursday morning.
Central to those compromise talks, House leaders said, will be the search for an acceptable substitute for a government-run insurance plan that those without medical coverage could purchase, a provision the House designed to compete with private insurers and force them to rein in costs. While the Senate has decisively rejected the “public option,” House leaders say they will demand other concessions to ensure that Americans can afford the insurance they will be required to buy if the bill becomes law.
ITNNEWS has this video of Harry Reid’s statement after the vote, saying it puts the U.S. “on step closer to making Ted Kennedy’s dream a reality.”
Former Bill Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta issued this statement in his role as CEO of the Center for American Progress:
“I congratulate Majority Leader Reid and the members of the United States Senate for taking a historic step forward toward reforming our nation’s health care system.
“If enacted, health care reform would substantially improve the lives of millions of Americans currently struggling with our broken health care system. It would extend health care coverage to a record 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured, bringing the total insured population to 94 percent. It would lower premium costs and cap health care spending for millions of families that are struggling today, and begin to rein in the spiraling costs that are creating a fiscal nightmare for the U.S. economy overall. And it would deliver much-needed oversight to the insurance industry, guaranteeing that no American will ever again be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or see their coverage canceled when they get sick, and that women will no longer be charged 48 percent more for the same coverage as men.
“It is critical that a final bill ensures that the subsidies provided are sufficient to make insurance truly affordable for working families. But if enacted, health reform along the lines of what the House and Senate have passed will represent the most historic reform of our health care system in the more than 40 years that I have been in politics. We still have a way to go, but today’s passage represents a major step forward.”
The Atlantic’s Chris Good predicts that liberals will clamor for something more progressive than the Senate version:
From the early round of reactions, it’s clear that liberals will want something more aggressive to come out of the conference committee, though it’s still unclear how they’ll respond if that doesn’t happen, or if only a few concessions are won.
Washington Post columnist David Broder, long considered the quitessential centrist columnist (now attacked by progressive as moving to what they perceive to be the right in recent years) thinks the bill smells:
The health-care reform bill coming out of the Senate presents a real dilemma for spectators: How do you applaud while holding your nose?
There is so much that is wrong with it — and the way it was made — and, at the same time, so much that is right that you just have to shake your head in despair and in wonder.
As one who covered the Clintons’ struggle 15 years ago to pass health-care reform and who wrote an overly long book about their failure to even bring it to a vote in a Democratic Congress, I am in awe at the prospect of such a bill making it all the way to the White House.
When implemented years from now, it promises to make as many as 30 million men and women who now live with the fear of illness or hospitalization leading straight to financial ruin eligible for the same care as their more fortunate, insured neighbors.
Six decades after FDR’s death, one of his Four Freedoms will, at long last, be guaranteed to almost all Americans. And the shame of this affluent society tolerating the denial of health care to its citizens will be largely lifted.
But Lord, what a load of embarrassment accompanies this sense of satisfaction! What should have been a moment of proud accomplishment for the Senate, right up there with the passage of Social Security and the first civil rights bills, was instead a travesty of low-grade political theater — angry rhetoric and backroom deals.
Broder says there’s enough blame to go around on both sides but that Obama and the Congressional Democrats spurned some genuine Republican desire for input. He concludes:
It would help a lot if he [Obama] reached out personally to those few Republicans who might still want to improve the bill rather than sink it. And it would help even more if he shamed the Democrats into rescinding some of the crasser bargains they made to buy votes along the way.
The country would welcome even a few signs that this legislation has bipartisan support.
Then we could applaud its final passage and take our thumbs from our noses.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post reports that the GOP may campaign on a pledge to repeal the bill:
The GOP vowed to continue to fight the bill. If it can’t block final passage, the party will campaign on a pledge to repeal it. “The battle is not over,” said a tight-lipped Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who took part in bipartisan negotiations over the summer that ultimately collapsed.
A CROSS SECTION OF WEBLOG REACTION:
Mark the date, December 24, 2009 while Americans prepared for the Christmas holiday … Democrats perpetrated a treachery that will be their undoing. Say good bye Democrats, 2010 is right around the corner and you will be tossed from office for trying to make America a socialized country. This so called landmark legislation was done by Democrats against the will of the people.
It is touted and spun by Democrats and Barack Obama as a historic vote and moment in American history, the Obamacare health care bill has passed the Senate, 60-39. Not one, not one Republican voted for this disaster called Obamacare….So what was the Democrats rush to pass a bill at Americans hate? Could it be that cowardly Dems did not want to face the American people like they did in Town Hall meetings during the August break? Ya Think!
When Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to pass Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, few suspected it would take four more decades to again pass health reform to cover more Americans that would reach the White House for signing. Medicare and Medicaid didn’t instantly improve health care, but it did strengthen the safety net that protects folks when extraordinary things happen.
Yet despite that historic achievement, and the magnitude of the accomplishment, the very real flaws in the bill have been far more in focus than the benefits or the history. Democrats appropriately wanted more. Republicans wanted to lie about what was in the bill, and denigrate what they could not stop. Between the two, the media and the blogs had plenty to talk about.
….Once can’t help but think that relying on Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as the go-to health care analysts for the GOP isn’t going to turn out well (for them.)
Next steps are the difficult reconciliation process, but don’t bet against this bill passing. There’s too much history, and too much Republican effort to scuttle the bill to make that palatable for Democrats. And for the 30 million people that don’t have insurance now, they can’t wait for the perfect bill. Think of them this holiday season as you celebrate with you and yours.
This had about as much suspense as Avatar….Actually, it’s probably at least two steps away. First, the House has to either consider adopting the Senate bill in toto or responding with another version of their own bill that passed a few weeks ago. Even the White House doesn’t consider the first option realistic, which is why they’re resetting expectations about getting a unified bill out of Congress to February and doing the “hard pivot” to jobs and the economy instead.
…This goes back to the House, and then likely back again to the Senate, and perhaps even a stop in a conference committee if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can’t avoid it. Meanwhile, the appraisal by voters of this effort will continue to get worse and worse, and this will continue to be an albatross around the neck of Democrats in 2010.
—skippy (who writes in lower case and invented the word “blogtopia”):
now that the senate has passed health insurance reform, the house and senate conference get to make changes. the abortion language can be removed along with the mandates, denying the coathanger advocates an argument they are being forced to pay for safer medical procedures. otherwise, or if these changes are filibustered, substitute reconciliation and pass a real health care reform bill with a public option.
–The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen reacts to vote but his most interesting post is reacting to Broder’s column:
I hate to be a stickler for detail, but the White House and the Senate Democratic leaders all but begged Republicans to be a part of the process. The entire initiative was put on hold for months so the bipartisan “Gang of Six” could hold fruitless backroom talks, but the negotiations were nevertheless endorsed by the White House and the Senate Democratic leadership. More recently, just a week ago today, President Obama spent an hour and a half reaching out to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) directly, followed up by a half-hour phone call. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine was sought out nearly as much. In April, President Obama met with GOP leaders in the White House, and started talking about the kind of concessions he was prepared to make as part of a bipartisan compromise. He asked what Republicans might be willing to do in return. They offered literally nothing.
Dems “never lifted their sights much beyond the Democratic ranks”? Reality suggests otherwise.
…The entire column is almost pretty much what one would expect, given the columnist. Broder blames “both sides” and urges policymakers who disagree to put aside their differences and come together, letting the country know reform has “bipartisan support.” Sigh.
The party-line outcome was not surprising. But it was clarifying. McConnell used his time to restate some of his party’s now-familiar complaints about the measure–and to vow more opposition. “This fight is long from over,” McConnell vowed. “My colleagues will work to stop this bill from becoming law.”
For all of the recent fighting among liberals, it is not the left that has stood (and still stands) in the way of creating a decent, protective health care system for nearly a hundred years. It’s the right.
First, though, there is more legislating to do. The Senate has a bill, but so does the House. The two chambers must work out their differences–over how to pay for the plan, what level of financial protection to provide, how to design the regulatory infrastructure for making insurance coverage available. With Congress out of session, negotiations are likely to stretch out over a few weeks; both White House and Capitol Hill sources now say it’s likely passage will wait until late January or even February.
You know this could be a really nice Christmas if those oversized egos in DC would just stop trying to shove their mugs into our holiday spirit. In what has to be the worst case of “look at me!” I have ever seen, the Democrats pushed through a tortured wreck of a bill on health care yesterday. Even many liberal Democrats hate the misshapen monster that has plopped out of the sausage mill called the US Senate…
…What we have is a prime example of what comes out of a process highjacked by zealots trying to force something on others in a democracy. There is so much opposition to this in the American public this beastie had to be put together with bribes and baling twine to pass the Senate. Thankfully it will be the shining exclamation point on a lot of incompetent careers, starting in 2010 when the people start throwing the bums out.
The epitome of arrogance on display by the buffoons in DC is the fact they are pushing this through on Christmas. This is an important time for families to sit back and give thanks for sacrifices made by others. It is also a time to remember that we can make it through the hard times by simply not giving up on the dream of a better future.
It is hard to get too excited about this event considering the serious problems in the Senate bill. The question now is whether a better bill can be produced during reconciliation with the far superior House bill. While groups such as the American Medical Association and AARP were pushing for passage of the Senate bill, I suspect that they supported it with such hopes. As bad as the Senate bill is, the status quo is worse . This will at least ensure that the private insurance market survives, enabling those who do not receive coverage from employers to continue to have access to health care coverage.
After what feels like seventeen years and 14 million column inches the Senate passed the healthcare bill 60-39 today (no Republicans voted for it). Assuming they agree on a final version with the House, here’s what it will mean.
The public option and expansion of Medicare have been much discussed. They did not make it in the forms many wanted — due partly to the intransigence of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson…
….The bottom line seems to be that it’s not perfect, but it is something. The thorny issue of abortion — many old men without wombs in both houses would like to deny it to women — will be dealt with when the House and Senate bills are reconciled.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.