This morning, after a year-long fight with Republicans, and a weeks-long debate, which ultimately pitted Democrat against Democrat, and liberal against liberal, the Senate passed a historic bill calling for major reforms of the U.S. health care system by a vote of 60-39.
Presiding over the Senate, in a rare appearance, was Vice President Joe Biden. As Senate chair, the Vice President can serve as the tie-breaking vote in the event of a 50-50 deadlock. But tonight’s victory for Democrats was never in doubt.
Over the course of this week, Democrats have passed several test votes–set at a 60-member, supermajority threshold. The only question this morning was, would they keep all of their members united for the final vote.
In the end they did.Now, Congressional Democrats face one more major challenge: merging the House’s and the Senate’s two different reform package, so that each chamber can pass the same bill. That merging process kicked of behind the scenes weeks ago, but will begin in earnest in the days ahead, and could last several weeks. We’ll keep you abreast of all developments.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned Democrats in a speech before the vote they would face a “truly outraged public” when they are on break.
“People who voted for this bill are going to get an earful when they finally get home for the first time since Thanksgiving,” McConnell said.
“This fight is long from over,” he said. “My colleagues and I will work to stop this bill from becoming law. That’s the clear will of the American people.”
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) was the only absent senator.