December 19th, 2009
03:03 PM ET
6 months ago

Democrats could vote by Christmas on health-care bill

Washington (CNN) - U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska threw his support Saturday behind the Democrats' health care reform bill, giving the party the crucial backing it needed to avoid a Republican filibuster that would prevent a Senate vote.

The first of a series of votes is set for Monday at 1 a.m. on a so-called manager's amendment, consisting of amendments crafted in the last one and a half weeks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

At the request of Republicans, the entire amendments package - 383 pages - was being read Saturday, for hours, on the Senate floor.

The Senate could vote on the entire bill - a top priority of President Barack Obama - before Christmas.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said the latest version of the Senate health care bill "is a legislative train wreck of historic proportions."

"If they were proud of this bill they wouldn't be doing it this way," McConnell said. "They wouldn't be jamming it through in the middle of the night on the last weekend before Christmas."

McConnell said the legislation "will have a profound impact on our nation. This is not renaming a post office. Make no mistake, this bill will reshape our nation and our lives."

Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York spent most of Friday trying to answer concerns by Nelson, who had been the lone Democratic holdout because of his objections to public funding for abortions. According to Schumer, the three men finally shook hands on a deal at 11 p.m.

Nelson's backing gave the Democrats the crucial 60 votes needed to move the bundle of recent amendments, which involved a spate of compromises, to the Senate floor.

"Change is never easy, but change is what's necessary in America today. That's why I intend to vote for cloture and for health care reform," the Nebraska Democrat told reporters.

Cloture is the procedure that allows senators to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster.

Nelson warned, however, that if there are changes to the health bill when House and Senate leaders meet to resolve their differences, he will withdraw his support. The House has passed a different version of the bill.

Obama said the Senate's health care reform bill would be the largest deficit-reduction measure in a decade.

"We are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality," he said.

"With today's developments, it now appears that the American people will have the vote they deserve on genuine reform that offers security to those who have health insurance and affordable options for those who do not."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would offer a decrease in the deficit of $132 billion over the first decade, and more than $1 trillion in the 10 years after that, Obama said at a brief news conference.

The new cost for the revised Senate bill is $871 billion, the CBO said. The previous price tag was $848 billion.

Obama's was one of a flurry of press briefings held Saturday after Nelson's announcement.

Nelson, a social conservative who opposes abortion, did not want taxpayer funds to pay for the medical procedure. One of his main requests was that states that offer insurance offer at least one plan without the abortion option.

Two liberal U.S. senators who had not committed to supporting the health bill also announced Saturday that they would vote "yes" on its passage.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said he changed his stance because the measure now contains provisions for new community health centers. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he favored the insurance reforms in the legislation.

Neither man is totally pleased, but they told CNN it's a good first step.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who was involved in some of the talks with Nelson, said she's satisfied that the language of the agreement achieves its goal.

"My goal was to try to reach some compromise so we could move forward on health care, where the basic premise was we could separate federal funds from private funds. I think we achieved that."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, agreed, saying the deal follows the principles of the Hyde amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used for abortions.

"Anyone who is in the exchange who also gets a federal subsidy because they're poor, if they choose a private insurance policy and want any kind of abortion coverage, they have to write that part of the premium from their own personal funds," the Florida senator said.

The health bill proposes a health insurance exchange for those unable to afford health coverage or don't have coverage. No federal funds could be used to cover abortions for people participating in the exchange, the bill says.

In addition, under national plans that would be administered by the Office of Personnel Management, there has to be, if a state chooses those, at least one that does not offer abortion coverage.

– CNN's Dana Bash, Brianna Keilar, Craig Broffman and Ben Barrett contributed to this report.


Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Truthsayer

    "Jamming it through before Christmas?"

    Umm...not to inject a does of reality into the GOP's fantasy world, but Congress has been debating this since last February. Hardly a rush job.

    On the other hand, I'm sure if we put it off until next year the wellspring of amazing Republican ideas for fixing this mess will be worth the wait.

    Give me a break. Santa should bring each Republican a stop sign and a lump of coal for their behavior this year.

    December 19, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. Dale

    Making progress... despite the Party of No fighting for Big Insurance interests every step of the way. I am no fan of Big Insurance. They told my INSURED mom to go home and die because they deemed her treatment too expensive. It could happen to you too.

    December 19, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. Grrr-awful-o

    As a longtime resident of the state of Oregon I demand that our state representatives in Congress to demand that Oregon get as a good of a deal as Louisianna and Nebraska are getting in this bill. It is not fair if some states get a better deal than others. We should get an equal deal or hold out until we do! (If you want to get re-elected!!@!!)

    December 19, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. jules sand-perkins

    Not only am I opposed to the passage of this health-care reform in its current package, and government based on the Ten Commandments, the Koran, or Science and Health is in direct opposition to our constitution.

    December 19, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. MVDCT

    The Congressional Democrats are a disgrace. This bill is nothing more than a government takeover of health care with more regulation, higher taxes, blatant inteference in the private section and less freedom for all of us. All of you will be shown your walking papers next November!!

    December 19, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. Bob Pacific Grove, Ca

    LOL!! Merry Christmas cons!! And thanks again for all your meaningful "input" on Health Care Reform, and every other major issue facing America......

    December 19, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. mountain mama

    Hello... Is anyone listening. The public does not want this. Stop spending. Stop and listen.

    December 19, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Change In America

    Thank you Sen. Nelson the republicans are hateful people we are going to vote them out. Demoncrate are better then them republicans they are looking good in 2010. Please vote for reform quick and get this Health Care reform pass and then let's vote the Republicans out in 2010.

    December 19, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Precious

    So, does this mean that I will have to pay higher taxes NOW in order to get healthcare in 2013. Also, before I can get healthcare coverage, will I have to vote for it in 2010 and 2012? If the passage of healthcare passes in 2009, how many people will now die before it takes effect in 2013? I have heard throughout this heathcare debate that if we don't pass heathcare NOW that millions of people are dying each year and more people will die, so I guess then in the next three years, billions more will have to die in order to reduce the deficit before the additional 30+ millions can get help. I heard that America will go bankrupt if we don't pass healthcare NOW, so what will happen in the next three years before healthcare becomes law. How do we now stop America from becoming bankrupt in 2010, 2011 and 2012? I guess only the majority in Congress, the Senate and the White House have the answer, because they have remade America in 2009!!!!

    December 19, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Michael

    The bill we were "proud of" Senator McConnell, is the one that had health care for all Americans, held the insurance companies accountable, and lowered rates for all. That is the one Republicans scoffed at, lied about, and turned into a joke. So if this bill doesn't meet your standards, tough cookies. You had a chance to be part of a good reform, and you killed that opportunity with your jingoistic lying. Now you can sit back and let the Dems do what has to be done.

    December 19, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  11. Doug

    This action alone dooms the United States to a third world nation as it will bankrupt the country before it ever goes to work. Immediate taxes with no benefits driving the country further into debt. Why is it that the DEBT CEILING WAS RAISED BEFORE THIS WAS VOTED?
    Think about it, Twelve Trillion in debt now but the President says it will save One Trillion in ten years time. Taxes and debt are out of sync and we will never recover.

    December 19, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. Nguyen

    Reps consistantly have said the bill was too long, it was created behind closed door, and so on. However, even before the bill was created in any shape or form, they already had talking points againts it. No need to say, Reps have never been interested in HCR, or anything that Dems and Pres. Obama are set to do.

    December 19, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  13. beth

    What happened to change we can believe in? To just pass this crappy bill they have to say, hey look what we did is WRONG. We need a public option. We don't need our senators crawling into bed with pharmaceutical and insurance executives. If this gets passed as is, I'l be very disappointed in President Obama. I really believed that he wanted what's best for all people. We need a president who will stand up to the Republicans, who are standing in the way of real reform, and tell them, tough sh_ _, I'm going to do the right thing, instead of doing what's politically astute. Come on Obama, get a good bill pushed through. Don't leave the country down. We have plenty of 'loser' republicans who can take credit for that.

    December 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. ib

    Pathetic; if Warner and Webb from Va. vote for this thing I can promise them two votes will go against them the next time they are up for election. This is nothing more than ration care for senior citizens and a complete take over by the gov. of healthcare.

    December 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. joe m

    what i want to know is what these people got in return for their support. this is exactly more of the same old politics taking place, something the president isn't so concerned about now. as an independent i'm looking for the day when there is a strong enough third part to actually challenge these two parties. these people don't care about doing the right thing, only what is right for themselves. so much for change we can believe in.

    December 19, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  16. Roger in CA

    Are they SURE eveyone is on board??? Lieberman doesn't work before sundown Saturday.... I don't want to have any shocking news blast from Floppy Joe coming out of the Sunday morning news shows....

    December 19, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. Steve-Illinois

    Looks like all the Dems pretending to hold out, have now sufficiently been bribed for their vote. You pro health care reform people have got what you wanted, higher premiums, less access, and no public option! This will truly be a historic moment in American history! Wait until you see the tax bill that gets dumped on your state to cover all the additional people on Medicaid!
    P.S. The second 10 years won't have 3 years of tax collection before any benefits are paid out. (this was the only way to make it "deficit neutral")
    Can you spell S-U-C-K-E-R-S. boys and girls?

    December 19, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain

    Pass the bill – do it NOW!

    December 19, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. Steve-Illinois

    Now that this pesky health care reform is a done deal, it's "on to the next crisis." Will it be global warming? Minnows in California? How about H1N1, haven't heard much about that lately. Immigration? Gay rights? One thing you can be sure of, it won't be jobs! Jobs must not be a crisis since the President spent more time at the beer summit than he did at the jobs summit.

    December 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. Dennis in AZ

    The only thing this Bill does is mandate Healthcare coverage. Ya–that worked out so well with auto insurance? Give me a break! The only ones who benefit from the Bill are the INSURANCE COMPANIES. Of course, the politicians who have been paid off by the insurance companies will also benefit (Max Baucus, Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, Barney Franks, Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, What's-his-name from Iowa, and the list goes on....). If they vote this legislation into law, there should be a revolution in this country. Why should we all pay for Louisiana and Nebraska to have free Healthcare? Instead, let's vote them out of the Union, sell Montana back to Canada (Max Baucus), and tar and feather the CEO's of Insurance companies everywhere! You want radical? Let's get radical and start putting the elected thieves into jail where they belong instead of nurtuiring their silver-spoon sucking sense of privilege.

    December 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. RG

    I have never understood why right of abortion is such a big deal in this country. Any woman having an abortion goes through so much pain anyways and on top of that morons like Bob Nelson have right to tell her 'No, I won't provide money for your medical expenses". Do these people think about the future of a child born under poverty, drug abuse, domestic abuse or emotionally wrecked mother. If these children turned out to be psychos shooting people on street, I bet people like Bob Nelson would blame that on mother as well, without realizing they are the ones who denied the choice of abortion.
    At times like this, I wish men also had to power to reproduce to be able to understand the responsibilities and pains associates with it. It's so sad that USA being the most developed country, fails to provide the basic women rights.

    December 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. Willy Brown

    The drums of 2010 "change" have begun. Bye bye democrats.

    December 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. John an Independent from NY

    Dems this is nothing to cheer about. The concept was good but this is a garbage bill. It will cost jobs, guaranteed!

    December 19, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  24. Romesh Khardori

    Ms. Palin is plian dumb who cares what she says.

    December 19, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. Steve-Illinois

    Can't wait until the fog lifts on the fantasy savings in this bill. When they don't materialize, like a genie out of a bottle, what will be the effect on the deficit then?

    December 19, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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