Today, the Senate chamber erupted into loud cheers when Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) returned to cast his vote on long-stalled Medicare legislation. Senators gave Kennedy, who has been battling a brain tumor, a long standing ovation. As he registered his vote, Kennedy said in a loud voice, “Aye,” and made a thumbs-up gesture. Watch it:
In a statement today, Kennedy explained his return:
I return to the Senate today to keep a promise to our senior citizens and that’s to protect Medicare.
Win, lose or draw, I wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to take the chance that my vote could make the difference.
Kennedy’s presence was critical. On June 26, the Senate fell just one vote short of the 60 needed to close debate on the Medicare bill, which would have blocked a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. Today, however, senators — including several Republicans — took Kennedy’s lead and voted to invoke cloture by a veto-proof 69-30. The Senate then passed the bill by unanimous consent. It now goes to President Bush for his signature.
In a statement, Reid is now calling on Bush to sign the bill:
The House strongly passed this bill in bipartisan, veto-proof fashion by nearly 300 votes, and the Senate has now passed it by a veto-proof margin as well. It is now up to the President to sign it into law. I call on him to join Congress in making sure Medicare works better for every American senior and TRICARE works better for our troops.
,Roll call is here. John McCain (R-AZ) was the only senator to miss the vote. He issued a statement in opposition to the bill:
Congressional leaders have once again decided to put partisan positioning over the well being of millions of our seniors. We should not hold our doctors and seniors hostage to political gamesmanship and political votes. While this bill does meet our obligation to provide proper reimbursements to Medicare physicians, it also rolls back important reforms, increases drug premiums, and places 2.3 million seniors at risk of losing the private health care coverage of their choice.