The Senate passed a defense appropriations bill Saturday as the
chamber’s Democrats cleared the decks for its healthcare reform
The $636 billion Pentagon budget and added unrelated amendments including extension of unemployment benefits for fiscal year 2010 passed the Senate overwhelmingly with a vote of 88-10. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) was joined by nine Republican senators in opposing the bill.
The vote came after a contentious cloture motion on the defense spending bill passed early Friday as Democrats accused Republicans of slowing the defense bill’s progress in order to impede their healthcare reform package. Only three Republicans voted to move forward with the defense bill then, which helped beat back a GOP-engineered filibuster.
Despite the legislation funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of $128 billion, much of the debate on the defense bill has centered around the Democrats’ reform push for the healthcare reform legislation instead. In an effort to finish the healthcare bill before the end of the year, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) has been keeping the Senate in session late at night and through the weekend. GOP senators, in turn, have said that Democrats are pushing the bill too quickly before it can be properly considered.
“The majority knows that the more time the public has with the bill, the more they know about it, the less they will like it,” said Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor Saturday before the defense vote. “This is a rush.”
Democrats countered by saying their colleagues across the aisle have concentrated on delaying their bill and have not come up with their own plan to change the healthcare system for the better.
“That is what they have to offer to the American people. Not ideas, not solutions, but delay,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard DurbinDick DurbinManchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill Democrats look for plan B on filibuster The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (D-Ill.) in response. He then went through a variety of reforms the Senate healthcare bill would achieve.
The successful passage of the defense bill in the Senate now clears the way for Democrats to finish their work on the healthcare reform bill. The House had already easily passed the defense bill on Wednesday with a 395-34 vote.