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Senate Votes To Clear Health Bill Procedural Hurdle

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Members of the Senate voted 60-40 at 1:18 a.m. today to protect a proposed revision of H.R. 3590, the Senate health bill, from a filibuster.

The early morning vote was one in a series of several major procedural votes leading up to what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expecting to be a floor vote at 7 p.m. Thursday — on Christmas Eve — on passage of the underlying bill.

All Democrats and independents in the Senate voted for a 30-hour limit on debate on the proposed amendment, and all Republicans voted against cloture.

Senate Democrats hammered out the 383-page manager’s amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to get the 60 votes needed to prevent Republicans from using a filibuster, or endless round of debate, to keep the bill from coming up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Reid unveiled the proposal Saturday, as snow blanketed Washington.

Republicans blasted the move to hold a cloture vote at 1 a.m.

“Some may be wondering why on earth the Senate is convening at midnight in the middle of a snow storm,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said. “The majority leader sets the schedule. He plopped down a 400-page amendment yesterday, and now he wants us to vote on it….. What’s the rush? I think the rush is that they don’t want to explain the bill.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put in a last-minute plea for Democrats and independents to oppose the cloture motion and the underlying Senate health bill.

“One can stop it, or every single one will own it,” McConnell warned.

Reid said a vote for the bill is a vote against the idea that health should depend on wealth.

“Every 10 minutes another American dies due to lack of health insurance,” Reid said. “The numbers are numbing.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, accused the Republicans of blustering to cover up for their failure to unite behind a credible alternative to the Democratic health bill.

“All we’ve heard is attack, attack, attack, no, no, no,” Harkin said. “As I see it, the Republicans have no bill of their own. Our bill has 60 people. They do have the Coburn-Burr bill. It has 7 supporters. They have no comprehensive bill like we have. Who do we deal with? Just McCain? Alexander? Coburn? I’m sorry, the Republicans are all split up. So, they’ve come together to say no.”

For a summary of the bill, see CBO: Senate Health Bill Amendment Hard On Doctors, Tanning Centers.

For earlier coverage of the Senate health bill, please see these stories:


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