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Senate Votes to Move the Health Care Debate Forward

November 21, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

After 23 hours of debate, the Senate on Saturday evening voted to begin a formal debate of the Democrats’ health care reform bill. The vote, which was on a motion to end a Republican filibuster of bringing the bill to the floor, was approved with no votes to spare.

The motion required a three-fifths majority, or 60 votes, to pass, which is exactly the number of seats Democrats hold in the Senate. With no Republicans voting in favor, Democrats had to hold their every member of their caucus together. The Democrats are notoriously bad at maintaining the party line, and a handful of moderates in the party are have already said they will join a Republican filibuster later on if the bill is not significantly altered. But somehow they pulled it off. It’s a significant victory for Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and the Obama Administration, but it does not mean that they will ultimately be able to pass the bill.

Read, comment and link to the Senate health care bill on OpenCongress: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act>>

The Democrats’ health care bill has been estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $848 billion and reduce the deficit by $130 over a ten year period. It would expand health coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans. Three to four million of the newly insured individuals would be covered by a new government-run insurance plan (a.k.a the public option). The bill would require all individuals to have health insurance, and provides $447 billion to help low and moderate-income people afford plans. It would also ban many of the most egregious health industry practices, like dropping patients that get sick and denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Passage of tonight’s vote was secured earlier in the day when two crucial centrist Democrats — Lincoln of Arkansas and Landrieu of Louisiana — announced that they would vote to bring the bill the bill to the floor. But both reiterated their objections to the public option included in the bill. “I am opposed to a new government administered public health care plan as a part of comprehensive health care reform, and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written,”

Sen. Lincoln said on the Senate floor. Senator Landrieu expressed a similar sentiment. “My vote today to move forward on this important debate should in no way be construed by the supporters of this current framework as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end,” she said.

When the Senate returns from Thanksgiving recess on November 30th they will take up their health care reform bill as a substitute amendment to an unrelated House bill, H.R. 3590. In order to begin the amendment process, they will have to vote to break another Republican filibuster of adopting the substitute amendment. The Democrats will need 60 votes for that, but tonight’s vote indicates that the votes will be there.

The amendment process could drag on for weeks. Dozens of amendments from both parties will be voted on, and most of them will be filibustered and require 60 votes. Senate Democrats are hoping to have a vote on final passage of the health care bill before they leave for Christmas break, but that timeline is likely to slip into 2010.

“The battle has just begun,” declared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] on Saturday afternoon.

If and when the Senate approves a health care bill, it will go to a conference committee to be reconciled with the version passed by the House. The final version that the conference committee — known as “report” — produces will have to be approved once again by both the Senate and the House before it can be sent to President Obama to be signed into law. The conference committee report will not be open to more amendments, but it will be subject to a filibuster in the Senate and require 60 votes for passage.

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  • Filtered Comment [ show ]

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 11/21/2009 5:42pm

    They won’t be very happy when several states nullify it.

  • Comm_reply
    spender 11/22/2009 8:10am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    I’m sure it’ll be the same states opting out of the public option that refused to take any bailout money to help people who had been laid off, but still took all bailout money they could to finance things that helped their political allies.

  • craines 11/22/2009 7:59am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    We need this public option now!

  • smugould 11/22/2009 5:08pm

    Please let me point out that none of this actually takes effect until 2014 — but we start paying now — so hold on if you are sick and don’t have health care — 2014 is only six years away — take two aspirin and call Obama, Reid , and Pelosi in the morning because they will then be the doctors in charge - that is if you are still alive -- just keep drinking the kool-aid — this is bad for America — BAD!

  • smugould 11/22/2009 5:41pm

    Excuse me — I misspoke — so sorry, 2014 will commence in just over four years — well, certainly no one will get sick or go bankrupt before then — and what was that often touted statistic? — 14,000 people losing their insurance every week – or was it every day? — no matter — it’s almost 2014!

  • Comm_reply
    Wiesel 12/19/2009 8:45am

    So what do you propose as an alternative?

  • Comm_reply
    rtmag 12/21/2009 1:04pm

    I say leave well enough alone. We have the best healthcare system in the world already.

  • clarkkent93 11/23/2009 6:06am

    I’m afraid where this going. History gives too many references what happened to those countries that went down this road.

  • jpope 11/23/2009 6:53am

    If our current healthcare system is so terrible, why do people from all over the world come here for treatment? People from countries with systems like the one this bill will usher in come here. Now why would anyone who could have their medical needs met at home travel to another country for medical attention? Got to wonder about that.

  • kimmi22 11/23/2009 7:34am

    I think many people simply don’t understand what this is going to cost us. Now estimating 2.5 TRILLION DOLLARS over a 10 year period. Where exactly do you think that money is going to come from? Are you going to go after those evil rich people? You know, the ones that own businesses that provide jobs? We could borrow more from China, I suppose. Ah heck, lets just print more money! People who think this is going to be some sort of freebie hand out are, I’m sorry, but they are just stupid. You are going to pay more taxes. You are going to pay more fees. You are going to pay more for just about everything. And you’ll get an over-expensive, inefficient, corrupt healthcare system run by…..the government. I’ve worked in goverment for 15 years and I’ve yet to see any system/service that didn’t waste money simply because the agency knew they were using tax dollars (that bottomless bucket). Their vendors knew the same darn thing and overcharged for poor service and products.

  • BenjaWiz 11/23/2009 9:15am

    I believe this bill is risky but it’s a risk I am will to take that’s why I support the President in getting this bill signed into law. Many in our country have waited far too long for some kind of decent health care and I also think the time for greed has to end.

  • Comm_reply
    introvertconservative 12/07/2009 3:33am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    By decent you mean free.

  • Spam Comment

  • angietwo 12/04/2009 2:59pm

    Strange that the word “greed” comes into play. Post by BenjaWiz… I think the idea of redistributing the wealth is a form of greed. “You that have” need to be forced to share? This bill is crazy. Health care reform, yes. This bill will cut Medicare, limit access to doctors (how can you add more people and keep the same number, or less, doctors, and expect access to health care? I hope everyone that votes for this bill will be “recalled” when election time comes.

  • BenjaWiz 12/17/2009 9:08pm

    angietwo, The poor and middles class that pay taxes deserve a fair not free stake in getting affordable quality health care but as this bill stands as of now I’m afraid we’ve lost that chance thanks to people like yourself how selfish.

  • puttputt 12/19/2009 7:22am

    How can anyone support a bill that’s not available, looks like it will be over 2000 pages and those voting haven’t read a final version. Plus what does it say about a bill that takes bribes and arm twisting to get passed! Let’s fix health care with some common sense – first take care of the fraud, have tort reform – allow individuals to get tax credits – allow individuals to shop across state lines. With the present bill we’re not getting health reform we’re getting bigger government control over our lives.

  • BelovedEmpress 12/21/2009 12:55am

    Lets not forget the worst part of this deal – its not just that taxpayers will foot the bill for non taxpayers so they can have ‘free’ care … the worst part is that buying insurance will be mandatory and will be a part of your IRS tax return – show proof of coverage or be fined. Sorry folks but that is extortion!! There are always better ways to do things but the govt wants to control and make deals. The best solutions have already been noted by puttputt – add to those being able to get our meds from outside the US – the FDA is just another control. People get so uppity about their right to health care – what about my right to not pay for your ‘free’ care??

  • AdvoCareInc 12/21/2009 10:59am

    I don’t get it. Subsidies ARE available, but only to households of 4 or more? What about the couples with no children at home (40 and over) who are at a greater risk of health issues that could leave them bankrupt before they are eligible for the Medicaid they are still working towards? The enchanced Medicaid income limit of about $29,000. Does that mean it allows a single disbled individuals to earn $28,000 and get off disability without losing the health care coverage? What if, like me, a disabled person might be able to work a few months and make over $20,000 for the year and not be on disbility, would they lose or keep their health care, specifically prescription coverage?

    Does any of this make any sense? As someone who might be able to work if I could still afford my prescriptions and treatments and frequent hospitalizations but could not work full time, could I be covered and be productice???? I don’t see that in here. The public option or universal care is necessary!!

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