After months of debate, the 60 members of the Democratic caucus united to cut off extended debate on the health care bill. It marked the first concrete step in the Senate to pass the overhaul bill, and no Republicans supported the measure. The vote, which came after a day filled with tense debate, ended at 1:19 a.m. and was the first of three that will take place this week to cut off different debates before a final tally is taken on the bill, tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. All the last-minute negotiations and backroom deals "threatened to overshadow the significance of what Democrats believed they were close to achieving: the most significant health-care legislation since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965," notes the Washington Post. Indeed, with polls showing that the public is increasingly skeptical about reform, "Democrats and the White House are intensifying efforts to reshape public perception of the bill as a glass half full, not half empty," reports the Los Angeles Times. When it finally came time to count up the support for the bill, senators voted "while seated at their desks, a rarely used practice implemented only for historic votes," notes Politico. Although the final tally wasn't surprising, "the late-night session was not without drama," writes the New York Times. The huge snow storm that paralyzed Washington over the weekend could have prevented some lawmakers from making it to Capitol Hill, and, due to Amtrak delays, a government plane had to be sent to pick up the two senators from New Jersey. Republicans were well aware throughout the day that they had virtually no chance of stopping the legislation, so they were reduced to hoping that a Democrat wouldn't be able to make the vote. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma caused ripples when he asked Americans to pray "that somebody can't make the vote tonight." Democrats immediately seized on the comments, saying that it was a not-so-veiled reference to Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who is 92 and uses a wheelchair. Majority Whip Dick Durbin asked Coburn to explain what he meant but got no response. While Capitol Hill was infused with drama, McClatchy points out that Democrats were already talking about the difficulties they will face in reconciling the Senate and House versions of the bill. Although many details of the two measures are similar, there are several key differences, particularly pertaining to abortion, taxes, and a government-run insurance plan.
Read original story in Los Angeles Times | Monday, Dec. 21, 2009