“Tonight we have the opportunity, the historic opportunity to reform health care once and for all,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and a chief architect of the legislation. “History is knocking on the door. Let’s open it. Let’s begin the debate.”
The 60-to-39 vote, along party lines, clears the way for weeks of rowdy floor proceedings that will begin after Thanksgiving and last through much of December. But even as the Democrats succeeded in uniting their caucus by winning over the last two holdouts, big disagreements remained, making final approval of the bill far from certain.
Two reluctant Democratic senators, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, warned that their support for a motion to open debate did not guarantee that they would ultimately vote for the bill. Their remarks echoed previous comments by several other senators, including Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.
Those comments made clear that more horse-trading lies ahead and that major changes might be required if the bill is to be approved. And it suggested that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who relied only on members aligned with his party to bring the bill to the floor, may yet have to sway one or more Republicans to his side to get the bill adopted.
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said his party’s opposition would persist. “The battle has just begun,” he said.
In a rare ceremonial gesture reserved for major votes, senators cast their yeas and nays from their desks in the chamber, each one rising to voice his or her position. Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, was not present and did not vote. CONTINUE READING...