Early this morning, the Senate passed comprehensive health care reform legislation by a vote of 60-39 — with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) not voting — ending more than four weeks of acrimonious floor debate. “This morning is not the end of the process,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reminded progressives dissatisfied with the Senate bill. “It’s only the beginning.” Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the longest serving federal lawmaker in U.S. history, cast his vote saying, “Mr. President, this is for my friend Ted Kennedy. Aye.” Watch highlights compiled by Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room:
As CAP President and CEO John Podesta noted, health care reform “would extend health care coverage to a record 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured, bringing the total insured population to 94 percent.” However, every single Republican opposed the legislation. RNC Chairman Michael Steele immediately put out a statement blasting the legislation as a “gift that keeps on taking”:
This morning, as millions of Americans prepared to gather with their families in celebration of Christmas, President Obama and Harry Reid gathered with their liberal allies in celebration of government. Mr. Reid and company honored President Obama’s Christmas wish for increased federal control and passed their government-run health care experiment out of the Senate. [...]
As we move forward, America can look forward to watching Nancy Pelosi conduct the arm-twisting needed to convince her most liberal colleagues that the Senate version is the best Trojan horse possible to hide a true single payer system, which is what this debate has always been about. This Christmas, the Democrats and President Obama have given America the one gift that keeps on taking.
Conservatives have been aggressively trying to portray health care reform as an assault on Christmas and Christian values. Fox News even said that senators voting against reform are doing so because they understand “the true meaning of Christmas.” Today on the floor, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) said that Americans would be getting “a lump of coal” this Christmas. Apparently, this meme is catching on. TPM notes that today on C-SPAN, a caller — “Bunny” from Kansas — was so upset over the health care bill’s passage that she said she would be taking down all her Christmas decorations. “I have taken my Christmas wreath off my house. I have taken all the lights down,” she said. “This is supposed to be a nation under God, and it isn’t. They absolutely have ruined Christmas.” Watch it (at approximately 45:00):
After the passage of the historic bill, President Obama said, “As I’ve said before, these are not small reforms; these are big reforms. If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s. And what makes it so important is not just its cost savings or its deficit reductions. It’s the impact reform will have on Americans who no longer have to go without a checkup or prescriptions that they need because they can’t afford them; on families who no longer have to worry that a single illness will send them into financial ruin; and on businesses that will no longer face exorbitant insurance rates that hamper their competitiveness.”