Senate passes health reform bill 60-39

Senators approved the health care reform bill 60-39 as Vice President Joe Biden presided over the Senate’s first Christmas Eve session in at least four and a half decades. It was the expected party-line vote, with Republican Jim Bunning absent.

More updates and reaction to this vote to follow.

Yesterday Tom Harkin asked for unanimous consent to move up the final health care vote to make it easier for some members to spend Christmas with their families, but Republican David Vitter of Louisiana said no.

Speaking of health care maneuvering, Joe Lieberman’s brand has taken a hit this month. It’s no mystery why. As Nate Silver observed here and here, being at the center of the health care reform debate tends to bring senators’ approval ratings down.

Recent polls have shown Chuck Grassley still above 50 percent approval, but with far less support than he has enjoyed for most of his career. He has already been running some positive television ads, but I don’t think he’ll be able to get his numbers back up to the 70 percent range by next year’s election. Nevertheless, Grassley’s Democratic challenger will need to make a broad-based case against him, because his double-dealing on health care reform won’t be the focus of news coverage next fall.

After this morning’s health reform vote, the Senate moved on to raise the debt ceiling. Retiring Republican George Voinovich of Ohio voted yes, making up for the no vote by Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana.

UPDATE: On Tuesday Chris Bowers previewed some of the key fights coming up as House and Senate members reconcile their bills in conference.

From a statement Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO released today:

At this historic moment, it is so important to the future of working Americans-and to our country-to get health care reform right. Despite doing some good things, the Senate bill remains inadequate. Substantial changes must be made in the final bill. […]

It makes no sense to tax the benefits of hard-working Americans to pay for health reform. The House bill curbs insurance companies and taxes the wealthy who benefited so richly from the Bush tax cuts. The Senate bill instead includes exorbitant new taxes on middle class health benefits that would affect one in five workers with employer-provided health coverage-or about 31 million people-in 2016. That’s the wrong way to pay for health care reform and it’s political suicide.

The House bill is the right model for reform. It covers more people, takes effect more quickly and is financed more fairly. The AFL-CIO is ready to fight on behalf of all working families to produce a final bill that can be called genuine reform. Working people cannot accept anything less.

SECOND UPDATE: This chart at the Washington Post site shows how each senator voted, how much he or she has received in campaign contributions from the health industry, and what percent of that state’s residents lack health insurance.

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