December 19th, 2009
03:03 PM ET
10 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. Justen

    Beth,

    You do understand that the Republicans in the Congress cannot do ANYTHING to stop ANYTHING that the democrats want to push thru?

    Of course you don't understand that, if you did, you wouldn't be making such uninformed posts.

    December 19, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Tom in Va

    YES... GO GO GO...get that vote done. FULL steam head Senate! Done let the RepubliCANTS get in your way.

    We need this...we need courage...we need bravery...and we need brains to final move healthcare forward.

    Senate Democrats.. MILLIONS are with you!

    VOTE YES!

    December 19, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. David

    It's incredible that our legislative system is set up so that one person can inflict his idea of morality on the entire nation.

    December 19, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. Reggie

    and the citizens will vote them all right out of office in the mid term elections. It's amazing how the democrats will vote against the will of the people. Ignorance at it's best!

    December 19, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  5. Barbara- a Canadian Perspective

    Congratulations to our southern friends... You are on the cusp of the realization of improved health care... keep it going. You deserve never to go bancrupt or into foreclosure because of medical costs... You deserve the security of knowing your health needs will be met... You do not deserve the obstruction, lies, and manipulations you have been subjected to by the "loyal" opposition. You're nearly there... My wish for all of you is "Merry Christmas" and a "Happy New Year" and "Good Health Care for All".

    December 19, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  6. Get Real

    Whoopee, these people should be in Used Car sales with the way they know how to sell a piece of junk and people buy it. Maybe the auto industry would not be in the tank.

    December 19, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. B

    GOOD, JUST GET IT DONE..!!!!! – – –

    and then you can send all of those Republican IDIOTS a BIG bag of COAL for Christmas !

    December 19, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  8. Nevada dude

    i dont care what mcconell says. any bill would have been a train wreck for teh GOP bcause THEY DONT WANT YOU TO HAVE HEALTH CARE. the GOP did evert thing they could to stop the bill, and they failed. This will catch up to them in the fall, because alot of people are angry at their obstrucitonism and will vote them out of office.

    for sure, this is not the bill most wanted, but this is the best we can get when only half of the senate is working.

    December 19, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. Peter E

    Without a public option, this bill is worse than useless. It's expensive and it does nothing! Democrats kept compromising away all parts until the bill became what the corporations wanted it to be: an expensive embarrassment that just leaves the status quo be, giving health insurance corporations even more money. Yay for 'reform!'

    December 19, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  10. Bill

    So how big was Nelson's bribe?

    December 19, 2009 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  11. Limbaugh is a liberal

    For all you abortion opponents out there: have you checked whether your insurance company covers abortions? I bet you haven't! Most of them do, and chances are yours does too. That's right, YOUR money, YOUR fees are being used to pay for somebody else's abortions! So why don't you protest that? Oh, but it's okay for a private corporation to make profits out of abortions, but it's bloody murder if the government alegedly does it? (which they DON'T!)
    Hypocrites!

    December 19, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  12. thompson

    Senator Nelson's true colors show when he pretends to hold out because he objects to federally funded abortion. In fact, he was bought off pretty quickly when it was agreed that the rest of the nation would pay Nebraska's Medicaid bills. Disgusting.

    December 19, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  13. JILL

    Republicans could care less about healthcare. They have great coverage so why worry about the "common" people???? But, hey, Merry Christmas one and all!!!

    December 19, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  14. Jadie

    I'm soooo sick of Republicans.....especially Mitch McConnell. What a twit on a stick.

    December 19, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  15. Kayla

    And Republicans, sitting back, smug as bugs hoping for failure. What a worthless pack of thugs the GOP has become.

    December 19, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  16. JAXSON

    Republicans have become a worthless pack of thugs.

    December 19, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. Kape

    "jamming it through in the middle of the night on the last weekend before Christmas"? I don't think so. Democrats have been asking for a national health care plan since Harry Truman. Insurance companies and Republicans have had 60 years to offer their improvements. If the current system is so much better, it will survive and continue to prosper. Nobody with a choice will switch over to an inferior plan.

    December 19, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  18. Florence

    Great day to be a Democrat!!!!!

    December 19, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  19. Emit

    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."

    Gee, and I thought legislation was supposed to have no impact. What were those Democrats thinking, LOL

    December 19, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  20. TCM

    why not spoil Christmas too, they've ruined the rest of the year...and years to come...unless you're a lazy obamkin

    December 19, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  21. Remember this when.......

    you stand before Obama's death panel and are denied the care you need......you will suffer and rot away from lack of care......medicine is no longer between you and your doctor but rather between your doctor and Obama's death panels......

    December 19, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  22. Paul F

    I hope that they do pass the bill, and then choke on it when challenged and declared unconstitutional. And then, when re-election rolls around, they can try and explain why they supported an unconstitutional 2,000 page debacle that would enrich insurance companies, will NOT cover all American's, FORCE everyone to BUY insurance, completely screw up Medicare while adding THOUSANDS of new GOVERNMENT JOBS doing absolute nothing but waste our hard earned dollars.

    These incompetent fools deserve all of the failure they will attract from their bailouts, Wall St payoffs, banker payoffs, and the volumes of fraud and bribery they have involved themselves in.

    December 19, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. Sharon - NC

    Many of them should make sure they vote before they take their Christmas holiday; otherwise, they may find themselves without jobs next year. It should not take an entire year to hash this out and pass it.

    December 19, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  24. Nini

    What a Shame.
    I am not sure if Democrats know how they are betraying our constitution or really don’t know and doing it out of ignorance.

    December 19, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Paul/ElPaso

    I had to read my three year old grandson a story before bedtime last night. It took me 10 minutes, then I remembered how the entire amendments package-383 pages worth had to be read to the Republicans out loud on the Senate floor. Can't they read or are they just to lazy? Do their wife's have to read to them everynight? The GOP have become soooo silly that I doubt I'll ver vote for another one of them again. The GOP is useless.

    December 19, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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