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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs