WASHINGTON (CN) – Democratic senators on Monday demonstrated long-sought unity on national health care when they broke a Republican filibuster on a 60-40 vote. President Obama described the historic vote as “standing up to special interests.”
The tally represents an important step for the Democratic caucus, which has been struggling to satisfy both liberals and moderates in passing health care reform.
Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson had expressed doubt over the health legislation. When Democrats tried to satisfy their interests by dropping a plan to expand Medicare, liberal Democrats began to threaten that they would abandon the bill.
The vote – on adopting a set of amendments agreed to by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada – was held shortly after 1:00 a.m. on Monday and fell cleanly along party lines.
Four more such votes are expected before the final Senate vote, which is currently scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Democrats have said that if Republicans don’t stall the legislation, a vote could be held sooner.
Republicans have objected to the odd hours, and complained that the vote was held after a record-breaking snow storm hit the capitol, leaving much of the city paralyzed. They accused Democrats of trying to sneak health care through the Senate.
Under the rules, lawmakers are still entitled to 30 hours of debate after a filibuster is broken by 60 votes, ensuring some delay to the health bill even though it was overcome.