Historic health-care debate appears closer

With no margin for rebellion, Senate Democratic leaders pushed ahead Friday toward a crucial weekend test vote on their sweeping health care bill amid indications the rank-and-file would stand together on President Barack Obama’s signature issue.

WASHINGTON — With no margin for rebellion, Senate Democratic leaders pushed ahead Friday toward a crucial weekend test vote on their sweeping health care bill amid indications the rank-and-file would stand together on President Barack Obama’s signature issue.

“We are not assuming a thing. We are working hard to bring all Democrats together for the 60 votes necessary to proceed to this historic debate,” said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “I’m hoping that we can muster our ranks.”

The nearly $1 trillion, 10-year Senate bill would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, bar insurance company practices like denying coverage to people with medical conditions, and require nearly all individuals to purchase insurance.

Sixty votes are required to clear Saturday’s must-pass procedural vote allowing debate to begin, meaning that all 58 Senate Democrats and the two independents that generally vote with them will need to hold together.

There have been just three question marks in recent days: moderate Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Nelson and Landrieu have made comments suggesting they’d allow debate to begin, focusing the spotlight on Lincoln, who’s facing a difficult re-election next year.

Durbin said Friday that Lincoln has informed Majority Leader Harry Reid how she plans to vote. Durbin wouldn’t disclose Lincoln’s answer and a spokeswoman for Lincoln had no immediate comment.

“I would say to Sen. Lincoln that I believe most people in Arkansas would be relieved and happy to see health care reform that gives them the peace of mind about the cost of health insurance and the protection of their ability to fight these health insurance companies,” Durbin said.

“I think the failure to pass a bill is not good for America, it’s not good for any of us in Congress, or those standing for re-election,” Durbin said.

Ahead of today’s vote Republicans and Democrats spent Friday trading barbs on the Senate floor over the 2,074-page bill.

Republicans displayed the Senate bill and the 1,990-page House bill — stacked on top of each other to form a tall pile — to criticize the legislation as an unwarranted government intrusion. Democrats defended their plan and blasted Republicans for not producing a bill of their own.

The House earlier this month passed its own health overhaul bill on a 220-215 vote. After Saturday’s vote senators will leave Washington for a weeklong Thanksgiving recess, and return for a lengthy and unpredictable debate on the measure, with dozens of amendments expected from both sides.

Both the House and Senate bills would set up new purchasing marketplaces called exchanges where self-employed or uninsured individuals and small businesses could shop for insurance, including the choice of a new government insurance plan.

Both pieces of legislation would rely on more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare over 10 years to pay for them.

The Senate would tax high-cost insurance plans, drug companies and elective cosmetic surgery and raise the Medicare payroll tax on income over $200,000 per year for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

The House approach would raise income taxes on the highest-earning individuals and households.

Just Posted

WATCH: Every square tells a story: Edmonton expert is exploring Red Deer’s quilting history

Community members can bring in family heirloom quilts for documentation

Red Deer-area dads going through divorce are invited to Man Up

Support group formed to focus on positive activities, networking

Pine Lake shooter loses conviction appeal

Cory Lavallee sentenced in 2016 to nine years in prison for attempted murder

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

PHOTO: Chew On This! campaign draws attention to national poverty

Lunch bags were being handed out in front of The Hub downtown… Continue reading

Wickenheiser, Pegula reflect NHL’s trend toward diversity

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a laugh, Kim Pegula’s competitive nature kicked in… Continue reading

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

DUBBO, Australia — The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were jokingly thanked… Continue reading

TV Review: A Roseanne Barr-less ‘The Conners’ is a triumph

NEW YORK — Can there be a “Roseanne” without Roseanne? The answer… Continue reading

Canadian manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent in August: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent to… Continue reading

Brian Mulroney joins board of directors of New York-based pot company

NEW YORK — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is joining the board… Continue reading

Canadians waking up to legalized cannabis: ‘My new dealer is the prime minister’

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Canadians across the country woke up to legalized… Continue reading

B.C. man accused of swimming naked in Toronto shark tank arrested in Thunder Bay

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — Police have arrested a B.C. man who is… Continue reading

Most Read