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. KayLynn

    Can't Republicans read???????????????????????????????????

    December 19, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  2. Mitch

    I'm so sick of the GOP and their silly, juvenile antics. They sure ain't the party Mom and Pop once supported. Worthless thugs.

    December 19, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  3. Nate

    If you want to get anything accomplished you'd better have a Democrat around.

    December 19, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  4. Steven Garner

    It saddens me greatly to say so but I think its pretty obvious that repubs and dems are completly corrupt beyond repair

    December 19, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Republicans demanding the entire amendments package, 383 pages, read aloud on the Senate floor,proves Republicans aren't capable of reading let alone comprehending anything that isn't told to them by Rush and Rove. They've become pitiful excuses for Senators.

    December 19, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  6. Ken in NC

    WOW....Look at this peice of crap in Congress they call a Health Care Bill. It's so watered down and gives everything to the insurance comapnies and Republicans still can't vote for it. If they can't vote for this watered down crap, can you imagine what Health Care Reform would look like if it had been left to Republicans to craft.

    Republican Health Care Reform = IF YOU GET SICK, DIE QUICKLY and we will give you a tax cut on your grave site but you will have to repay the tax cut if your grave site goes unused for more than 90 days.

    December 19, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  7. Ken in NC

    Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader says this Health Care Reform is a legislative "Train Wreck" . I hope it isn't but just in case it is I hope he and all the Republicans are in front of the engine so the blow will be softened by all the hot air in them on impact. That way corrective measures can be taken and we can go on our merry way.

    December 19, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. Watchdog

    Health care will reduce the deficit.....YOU LIE!
    November cant get here soon enough...

    December 19, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. Mickey

    Vote on it...cram it down the Republican's pie hole!

    December 19, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  10. Gerry NH

    So Nebraska will have 100% of medicade for this vote. This is now three states thst will get full funding for medicade and 47 states that won't. Then the 47 state will then have to make-up the differences of these 3 state. This is really a CRIME.

    December 19, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  11. Mike

    I am a Democrat through and through. Having said that, if this bill passes aqnd is signed by Obama, I will never, ever vote for a democrat again. Since there is not one republican alive that I could ever vote for, I guess I will never vote again.
    To give all the promises that they have given, the straw that broke the camel's back is giving Nelson an amendment whereby Nebraska will never have to pay its fair share in return for his vote means that democrats are as corrupt as republicans.

    December 19, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  12. Mike in SA

    A funny change they made that is supposedly included to limit insurance companies profits states that the insurance companies spend 80% on actual medical expenses instead of administration and salaries. This will do nothing but raise the amount that insurance will pay for medical expenses therefor raising costs. Example: a person gets sick and has medical bills, an insurance company can pay the provider $75 which would allow $15 for salaries, administration, and profit. If the insurance company spends $100 to the provider, then the company would be allowed $20 for salaries, administration, and profit. Of course ultimately these costs will trickle down to the consumer making things even MORE expensive. Those brilliant Democrats!

    December 19, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. Four and The Door

    This bill will be worse for the Democratic Party than even the Stimulus bill, the Wall Street Bailout or the Auto industry bailouts. Those three alone show how lousy government can fail when given the chance, but this one will be the granddaddy of them all. It's not fun to watch how ugly partisan politics can get or how much the result can devastate a nation.

    December 19, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  14. W l Jones

    It seem to me some people disrepecting our Doctors and Nurses, I have confident they will rise to the casing and do what they swarm to do and that is give every patiant the best care at there command.

    December 19, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  15. John

    Jamming it through? People have been trying to get this done over the opposition of the special interests ever since the days of Teddy Roosevelt! It will be a great day in American history when this finally passes and we can join the rest of the industrialized world and say "no more!" to having millions uninsured and subject to premature death because of limited access to health care.

    Twenty years from now, the idea of cutting or taking away basic health benefits for all will be just as much of a non-starter as eliminating Medicare or Social Security would be now. Thank you, Democrats, for finally getting this done!

    December 19, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  16. jj123

    If it is so immediate that people are dying because they dont have insurance, why do we need to wait several years for coverage?

    December 19, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  17. Dale

    And for all the Repub's that think they know best, I bring up one piece of history: Medicare Part D. You have no credibility when it comes to healthcare reform.

    December 19, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  18. Ried the pimp

    Nelson got a deal similar to the $300 million in Medicaid assistance Sen. Landrieu of Louisiana got for her support.
    It has been reported Nebraska will now not have to pay any of the additional Medicaid costs associated with this bill forever.

    They bought Nelson, his moral standards are nothing nore than a bought and paid for prostitute would be. They paid Nelson off, now he will have to turn a trick.

    He played his hand perfect, he got a deal. He played Ried just like Landrieu did....... I hope others follow suit and now say they want a deal or no yes vote.

    December 19, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  19. Jerry

    Oh yeh, pass the taxers the vaseline.

    December 19, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  20. stop the madness

    We are $12 trillion or so in debt, medicare is going broke, the social security trust fund is empty and the country is literally operating off of a credit card. With all this, so many STILL insist on yet another entitlement program? Thanks to both Republicans AND Democrats, this country's days are numbered....

    December 19, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  21. Get reay for high premiums

    I hope all you Dems enjoy your higher Health Insurance cost.

    Now whay do I say that? Hmmm, this thing will not go into effect for a long time. They say it will stop insurance companies from raising premiums. BUT, what do all you stupid people think the insurnace companies will do from now until this goes into effect?
    Even if it is only two months, they will go nuts. The credit card companies have all done it. You know that new law that says they cant raise your interest? Well, it is not into effect yet, and MANY of the card companies are raising rates on thier customers, event he good, well rated ones. My rates DOUBLED. I pay my bill every month, have never been late. But yet because of the new rule, they wanted to beat the punch. Insurance will do the same thing.

    December 19, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  22. Hendrik

    THIS MUST PASS. THIS MUST PASS. THIS MUST PASS. THIS MUST PASS. We are closer than we have ever been to doing something FOR OUR COUNTRY instead of TO OUR COUNTRY.

    You will never shut these Republican morons up and that is to be expected. But let's do what Franken did to Liebermann and shut them up when we can.

    This is for the American people!!!

    December 19, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  23. Bye Bye Dems

    AMEN Grrr,,,, I agree. Ohio should get it also. Sherrod Brown needs to say he will not vote for the deal until we get what Neb and La got.

    This bill will be the end of Dems the next election.

    December 19, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  24. Dan, TX

    This is the total sell-off for American people. Democrats know that American people are against it. They have majority in senate and congress so they are doing whatever they like. These are the consequences of elections. We have a radical socialist president in the White House elected by voters. I simply hope that the tables will be turned in 2010 when new congress and senate will be back in session. I hope they vote against this Healthcare reform so we can get back our freedom to choose our own doctors and the healthcare. We do not want Barack Obama to decide on my healthcare.

    December 19, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  25. ian in tennessee

    "Arrogant&Naive2say man overpwers nature,"

    This is so profound–how could I have been so wrong?

    The Carrier Pigeon, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker and the Western Black Rhinoceros will all be so glad to learn that Sarah thinks man had nothing to do with their extinction.

    Hey, Sarah! While you're on a roll, how about settling this whole earth is flat/earth is round thing ? ? ?

    December 19, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
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