Senate passes health care bill & Open Thread

Vote was 60-39. Both New Jersey senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez voted yes.

Update: We now know who the missing Republican was, that led to a 60-39 vote instead of 60-40. It was Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who was entitled to vote today, but is not running for re-election after heavy pressure from fellow Republicans to drop out.

Senators Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders, both lobbied heavily to vote no on deeply imperfect legislation, both voted yes.

Senator Robert Byrd, whose death or injury was wished for by some Republicans this holiday season, was wheeled in and cast his yes vote, adding, This is for my friend Ted Kennedy.

Senator Harry Reid brought the funny, but not on purpose. When the rollcall got to him, he voted loud and clear: No!

The clerk paused, as the room tensed up a little, to let an exhausted Senate Majority Leader catch up with what he just did, and change his vote. Which he did, as everybody in the room cracked up.

I only saw the last minute of the vote. There’s more to say, so consider this an Open Thread.  

Comments (5)

  1. Jason Springer

    “This is an historic moment for an historic reform that will protect the health and wealth of our nation,” said Menendez. “For too many years, too many families have wondered why something so basic as health insurance takes so much out of their paychecks and why their insurance is unreliable when they need it the most. This legislation, forged through the hard work and vigorous debate of many Senators, will finally end the tug-of-war between families and their insurance companies, will curb the ballooning cost of health insurance and will significantly reduce our budget deficit. For seniors, it will bring Medicare back from the brink of insolvency, fully preserve Medicare benefits and provide badly-needed Medicare Part D prescription drug cost relief.

    “In our state, millions of families will benefit from the cost control provisions, consumer protections and expanded access to insurance that come with this reform. I worked hard as a member of the Finance Committee to include priority provisions to the bill that are focused on benefitting our state. As a result, our hospitals, which have experienced tough times, will save an estimated $70 million per year, thousands of New Jersey families dealing with autism will have guaranteed coverage for treatment, and the legislation is fairer to moderate-income families in high cost-of-living states, like ours.

    “Through the rigors of debate, the moments of optimism and the moments of pessimism, 59 of my colleagues and I believed that we could get this done, because we knew that we must get it done. Our generation is rising to the challenge that has confronted generations before us, and that will make ours a stronger nation.”

  2. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    “This historic Senate action brings us a step closer to providing affordable, quality health care to millions of Americans who are struggling to pay their medical bills and stay healthy,” stated Lautenberg.  “In addition to making health care more accessible, this bill will reduce the federal budget deficit, strengthen Medicare and ensure that health care is about people instead of insurance company profits.  I worked hard to include a provision that will help families in high cost of living states like New Jersey have fair access to affordable care. I also fought to include a requirement that will stop insurance companies’ outrageous practice of denying coverage to children with pre-existing medical conditions.  This bill is a win for America and a win for New Jersey.  I was proud to support it and will continue working to ensure a strong health care reform measure reaches the President’s desk.”



  3. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    “I want to commend members of the U.S. Senate, and particularly New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, for their outstanding work in passing a comprehensive health care reform bill. This is an extremely complex issue, but it is also a matter of urgent importance to millions of uninsured Americans, including 1.3 million New Jersey residents who currently fall outside our country’s broken health care system.

    “Much appreciation is also due to those members of the New Jersey congressional delegation who shepherded an earlier version of this reform through the House of Representatives – particularly, Rep. Frank Pallone, who has been a forceful advocate for our state’s working families.

    “Now that versions of health care reform have passed both houses of Congress, I urge Senate and House leaders to work out their differences as quickly as possible and send a bill to President Obama that will assure health care security and stability for every American.

    “I have long believed that health care is not a privilege, but rather, a fundamental human right.  That’s why we led the way in New Jersey by creating a child healthcare mandate, and by extending coverage to 100,000 more New Jersey children.  The Senate’s action this morning is the best Christmas gift that America could ever hope for, and a validation of our efforts here, in the Garden State.

    “While it saddens me that my friend, Senator Kennedy, did not live to see this day, I know that we could never have achieved this victory without his drive and vision.  Health care for everyone was his life’s mission, and I am confident that, today, Senator Kennedy is smiling from heaven.”

  4. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    From Charles Wowkanech, President:

    TRENTON – “We respect the U.S. Senate’s diligence and recognize the significance of its passing the first comprehensive health care reform bill in over 40 years,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “However, for this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men and women, substantial changes must still be made.”

    “Without the public option, the Senate bill will not check costs in the short term. Additionally, the Senate bill does not ensure that employers pay their fair share and it is not financed fairly, given the inclusion of a tax on workers’ hard-earned and negotiated benefits,” said President Wowkanech. “The House bill is the right model for reform since it will lower health care costs more quickly, cover more people, and does not place a tax on the middle class to fund reform.”

    “We look forward to working with our two Senators, who strongly support achieving the best possible bill for working families, as well as the rest of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation as the House and Senate bills are merged,” said President Wowkanech. “We must insist that the right version of reform is the one that makes it to President Obama’s desk.”

  5. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    Sen. Vitale chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee:

    “Passage of health insurance reform by the U.S. Senate this morning marks a historic moment in our Nation’s history, and two New Jersey lawmakers were instrumental in this accomplishment.

    “Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, played a critical role in ensuring New Jerseyans will benefit from the cost-control and comprehensive consumer protection measures contained in the bill. Our state’s economy will benefit from investments in biotechnology, our health care providers will benefit from better Medicare reimbursement and our employers will benefit from premium stabilization.

    “Congressman Frank Pallone, who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, has been a key player in crafting this historic legislation. I’m sure he will continue to work closely with Senator Menendez as the conference committee works to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill. I am confident we are on the precipice of achieving meaningful and comprehensive healthcare reform.”


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