By Jeffrey Young - 03/25/10 06:15 PM EDT
Healthcare reform’s long, strange journey was just hours from an end
Thursday after the Senate advanced “fixes” to the newly enacted law.
By a 56-43 tally, the Senate approved a budget reconciliation bill containing the White House-brokered compromises between the Senate-authored healthcare reform law President Barack Obama enacted Tuesday and the House version of the bill.
“Last year, a supermajority of the United States Senate passed the most crucial social, economic and moral change in several generations. A couple of days ago, the president signed that into law and today we made that law even better,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Three Democrats voted against the bill -- Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) -- but it easily prevailed because reconciliation bills require only a simple majority to pass, not the 60 votes typically needed to advance bills in the Senate. All three senators voted for the bill Obama signed when it passed the Senate in December.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, said leaders expected more Democrats to oppose the measure. “Fifty six is more votes than we thought we had,” he said.
Reid provided a moment of levity during the vote when, as he did on Christmas Eve when the Senate passed the healthcare reform bill, he initially voted no by accident. Reid’s repeat of this mistake provoked a ripple of laughter on the Senate floor and in the galleries.
Several Democrats also voted in supported of some GOP amendments to the reconciliation bill but none were approved. Senate Democrats, who promised their House counterparts not to alter the legislation, offered no amendments during the three days of floor consideration.
Michael O’Brien contributed to this article