December 19th, 2009
03:03 PM ET
8 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. Dennis in AZ

    The only problem with Healthcare in this country is that the industry has been allowed to monopolize. We all decided many years ago that monopolies are a bad thing in a free market. If we didn't have de jure monopolies (thanks to republican radicals), the socialists wouldn't have been given the opportunity to take over the government. Now, instead of voting against monopolies and "too big to fail," the democrats are voting FOR monopolies, and now they are making them a requirement. This whole dog-and-pony show has nothing to do with the public good and everything to do with paying-off the insurance industry and the politicians who support them.

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

    It's the transparency of it all that impressed me! Why I sat and watched the whole thing on C-Span, just like President Obama promised!

    December 19, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. Keith Hooker

    This is my addition to my earlier comments on the "Al" issue.

    I am Keith, I am your neighbor. I am just as concerned as everyone about deficit. What I would like to see as a legacy is for my college aged, and senior in high school aged children is to give them opportunity. It cost me $13,000 this year to provide healthcare for my family. That is disgusting in it's own right, the public option got shut down, why is it that when money dissuades rationalism that everyone with an open pocket shuts things down "We the people"! Take lobbyism, politicism, and partisanism out of government and maybe we'll see a better future for you, me, our children and the populace as a whole. Take politics out of politics, erase the monetary factor and we can live as one in the most wonderful place to be on the planet.

    To quote Pete:

    This land is your land, this land is my land...

    Own up and be responsible.

    These truths we hold true.

    I am not hiding behind a moniker.

    I am Keith, your neighbor, a proud American.

    Keith Hooker Carrollton Texas.

    Who are you?

    December 19, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    If this tax increase goes through, it will be time to "Fire Congress" next fall. The minority American taxpayer can NOT afford this reform.

    December 19, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. Jason

    Part of the reason Nelson is voting for the bill is b/c it includes a provision to extend federal funds matching for Medicaid exclusively for Nebraska. Glad to know my tax dollars are being used to pay legislative bribes. Is this the change everyone's been talking about?

    December 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. Travis

    Well, I guess we are getting used to Christmas shopping lines right now, so what better way to get people used to the idea of waiting in line for healthcare. Good call by the Dems!

    December 19, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. Jeffrey

    this bill is the bniggest rush job Ive ever seen, and all they are doing (the demon-crats0 is pissing off the very people that voted them in with all the smoke and mirrors bs.

    WAKE UP PEOPLE! LOOK AT THE POLLS! n obody but the degenerate, and illegals want this to go through. lets perpetuate the robin hood syndrome......great idea!

    December 19, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Biased

    In order for Obama to go down in the history books once again, Reid has sold out all Americans in his deal to Landrieu, Sanders and Nelson.
    Landrieu just cost taxpayers 300 million. She came cheap to the American pocketbook. Sanders sold out his vote for 20 billion in extra health facilities which Reid has dutifully handed over but Nelson takes the cake.
    He just cost every taxpayer in every state the cost of the extra funding for Nebraska's medicaid expansion for ever – not just a certain few years or a time limit but FOREVER all Americans will be paying Nebraska's taxes for their expansion of Medicaid plus he got the two insurance companies in his state an exemption from their taxes.

    And you dare talk about Republican shenanigans after this? This is a disgraceful buyout, not negotiations, but buyout at everyones' expense for 3 votes in order to pass a bill that the majority no longer ant.

    December 19, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. Beverly in NC

    Wow- Mitch McConnell is such a genius. He and Boehner must go play golf together every day while the Democrats do real work for the People of our nation.

    He is right, for once, that this healthcare reform will be profound for our nation, It will save lives, provide healthcare for everyone, and will forever change healthcare services such that the insurance companies will not be able to abuse us with ridiculous premiums for less coverage, not be able to get in between us and our doctors on the best treatment recommendations, will not be able to jerk away coverage just when we get sick, and will have to spend our premium money on US or have it deducted from their profit margins.

    McConnelll is just another ignorant Republican stuck in the past who cares nothing about the People. As long as he gets his "socialist" Medicare, Social Security, and Senate pension then to hell with the rest of the rabble beneath him. If he really hated government so much, then why does he still use all his government-run benefits like healthcare and $180K salary? He is nothing but another Republican hypocrite.

    We need to make sure we remove these hypocrite obstructionists from Congress in 2010 and 2012. Today these so "fiscally" concerned Republicans are playing more delay games by making all the healthcare bill amendment be read out loud. This will take all day, waste an entire day of finishing the vote on the bill and will waste incredible amounts of government money in the process.

    I'm amazed that anyone can still find these Republican liars credible. They have no integrity, no character, wil sell their votes to the highest corporate bidder, commit treason by calling for our government to fail, and promote racism, hate, fear, and violence to get what they want. Nothing is too low for them to sink to. These are not leaders. They do not represent the People who elected them. They are corporate lovers who only care about their rich, white, country club buddies. It's time to send them home and make them live among us lower class citizens they hate so much.

    December 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  10. Liberla wingnut

    Left wing liberals no longer like the bill, moderate and independent voters don't like the bill, right wing conservatives don't like the bill, Why is this going through again?

    December 19, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. JonDie

    McConnell: Health care bill a 'legislative train wreck'

    From 2001 to 2009, Mitch McConnell helped the Republican Party run our economy to the edge of a second Great Depression...while doing NOTHING to solve ANY of our problems.

    December 19, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. SheikYerBooty

    Liberals need government (taxpayer) handouts because they can't make it on their own. The problem is the sheer numbers of liberals who are sucking at the teats of Nancy Pelosi. Why don't you liberal parasites save the taxpayers a few bucks by sucking at the teats of Whoopi Goldberg?

    December 19, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. frank, pennsylvania

    Thank God that the dems have decided to pull together and get a reasonable healthcare system for all americans. It would have been a disaster for them to fall into the traps of the republicans – who have been deceiving the public with frivolous arguements to score cheap political points instead of having genuine interest in the health care of all americans. I salute Senators Nelson and Casey for insisting that tax payers money is not used to kill innocent helpless human beings – abortion!

    December 19, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  14. dean

    mitch McConnell is going to have to answer to Humana and the big nursing home group based in louisville that gives him all that money about why he couldn't stop the health care reform bill that will save taxpayers billions of dollars in ripoffs to the government. Now, if we can only give Mitch the boot from the senate to a nice board of directors job with (you guessed it) the health care industry.

    December 19, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Not fooled

    They will come to regret it...

    December 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Dawn Ada,Ohio

    That's fine and dandy, but if they leave the provision in the bill that requires all to get health insurance they have sunk the American public and we will know that the Dems and President Obama are in the pocket of the insurance companies. If this does happen we Progressive better get busy and start recruiting a new Presidential Candidate and Senators and congressmen and women, because I won't vote for anyone who is not for and about the American People.

    December 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. US

    GOP needs to learn lesson from Dems. GOP been in power for over 10 yrs but not even one single thing gets done. party of "NO" can do nothing but NONE.

    December 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  18. terry,va

    Nelson got full federal monies for Nebraska in the Medicare/Medicaid area. Other states receive federal help until 2017. If everyone got their way it would be a great bill, huh?

    December 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  19. Nancy-North Carolina

    Not the bill I hoped for (with a public option) but at least it's a start to help those Americans who have no health care thanks to the insurance companies. If we all knew that throughout our lives, we would never need to go to a doctor or a hospital or develop high blood pressure or diabetes or be diagnosed with cancer, then we could go the way of the conservatives. But thus, this is not the case. To be so self-serving, so arrogant, so heartless and so un-caring about everyone other than themselves and then to call themselves `religious' is just hypocritical beyond belief.

    December 19, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. MaryJo

    Senator Nelson, I do not share your abortion philosophy, and I actually do not approve of you holding the rest of the country hostage to those views, but I am glad that at least you could support the rest of the bill and I am glad that your brethren Senators were willing to capitulate to you in order to save a reform movement that just simply has to cross the finish line.

    December 19, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. Obama Mama

    He has seen the light. Good for you.....HEALTHCARE REFORM Change we can believe in.

    December 19, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. thompson

    This bill falls pitifully short of the landmark legislation it will be spinned as. President Obama did not fight for public option, nor did he fight for a Medicare buy-in for younger seniors, both of which were desperately needed and would have truly been landmark legislation. He and our democratic representatives promised so much and delivered so little. But at least, thank you that insurance companies can't drop us any more if we get sick. At least, I hope that's the case. I guess we'll see.

    December 19, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  23. Justen

    As long as I get the same quality, and it's not more expensive (I pay about $300 a month for my family plan), if it can do that, then I don't mind.

    Unfortunately, they way I hear it, the new plan is going to raise my rate, and that sucks, I'm streched about as thin as it gets right now.

    December 19, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. russell

    Members of Congress Health Plan is subsidized by the Federal Government........................Does this mean they are on welfare?
    Ask members of Congress to pay the full premium for the Health Plan..............I'm sure they will pass a National Health Plan fast if their own health plan depend on it!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 19, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  25. Hammerer

    Are you kidding? This is nothing more than Democrats trying to save their party. If there is no healthcare there will be no Democratic party.
    News flash! If the current bill passes there will be no Democratic party. Give a crook enough rope and he will hang himself. The Democrats are on the verge of hanging themselves.

    December 19, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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