News

Senate Democrats Unite to Advance Key Health Care Reform Bill

The Senate has voted by 60 to 40 to close debate on landmark health care reform legislation backed by U.S. President Barack Obama and fiercely opposed by Republican lawmakers. Now, the divided chamber appears to be heading towards a vote to pass the bill on Thursday, Christmas Eve.

Multimedia

It was the middle of the night in Washington, but all 100 senators were gathered in the Capitol for a key procedural vote on health care reform legislation.  Democrats needed every single one of the 58 Democrats in the Senate, plus the two independents who normally vote with them, to vote for cloture, which limits debate and Republican delaying tactics, and they got it.  All 40 Republicans voted against cloture.

"On this vote, the yeas are 60 and the nays are 40.  Three fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn, having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to."

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada had been working day and night for weeks to get the 60 votes he needed, amid tireless efforts by Republicans to delay and obstruct passage of a bill they strongly oppose.

Moments before the vote, Reid read from letters sent to him by people in his home state of Nevada who are sick and unable to get necessary medical care.  Senator Reid cited a Harvard University study that says on average, one American dies every ten minutes because of a lack of health insurance.

"This country, the greatest and richest the world has ever seen, is the only advanced nation on earth where dying for a lack of health  insurance is even possible," Reid said. "

The bill would extend health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans who now lack it, and bar insurance companies from practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  Most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance for the first time, with subsidies provided to those who cannot afford it. 

Senate Minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky summed up Republican opposition, saying the bill is too expensive and does not fix the problems with the current health care system.

"Tonight marks the culmination of a long national debate," McConnell said. "Passions have run high and that is appropriate. Because the bill we are voting on tonight will impact the life of every American.  It will shape the future of our country.  It will determine whether our children can afford the future they inherit."

Senator McConnell conceded that Democrats have the votes they need, but he said they will face political consequences if the bill passes.

As wrangling over the bill has continued for months, public support for the initiative, President Obama's top domestic priority, has declined.  But passage would still be viewed as a major political victory for the president.

Conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson announced his support for the bill Saturday after long negotiations with Senator Reid, giving Democrats the 60 votes they needed.  They will need those 60 votes again for a series of procedural votes this week, leading up to a vote on the actual health care bill now likely to take place  Thursday evening, Christmas Eve.


If the bill passes in the Senate, that version will have to be merged with a more liberal version passed by the House of Representatives which includes a government-run alternative, not included in the Senate version.   So there is likely to be more wrangling and possibly more late night votes on Capitol Hill in January.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs