Washington (CNN) – Traditional Senate decorum yielded to brass-knuckle politicking in the health care debate Friday as top congressional Democrats sought to close party ranks before a key procedural vote this weekend.
Senate Democrats slammed their Republican colleagues as leaders of a counterproductive party of fear caught in an obstructionist mindset dating back to the New Deal. Republicans, in turn, ripped Democrats for pushing a bill that conservatives claim will force millions of Americans to drop insurance plans they like while jacking up premiums and doing nothing to slow spiraling medical costs.
The harsh rhetoric served as a backdrop for a rare Saturday night Senate
vote on whether to formally proceed with floor debate on Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid's sweeping $848 billion health care bill.
If Republicans stay unified in opposition to the bill, Reid will need the support of all 58 Senate Democrats along with independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to reach the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
Three key Democratic moderates - Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska - have refused to publicly indicate if they'll back Reid. Each has expressed concern about the cost and scope of the legislation.