Senate Passes Health Reform Bill

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The U.S. Senate just passed (about 7:15 am, Christmas Eve Day) the health care reform bill, 60-39, with all "aye" votes from the Democratic caucus (including Mark Warner and Jim Webb, of course) and all "nay" votes guessed it, the "Party of Nay." Or is it the "Party of No?" :) Anyway, you get the point.

P.S. Only a simple majority (what a concept - democracy!!) was required on this vote, but the bill received a filibuster-proof 60 votes, meaning that health reform is highly likely to become law in early 2010. My hope is that Congress will revisit this issue in 2010 (or, more likely, 2011) and add a public option to the insurance exchange.

P.P.S. Robert Byrd said, "Mr. President, this is for my friend Ted Kennedy. Aye." Also, there was applause at the end, which Vice President Biden gaveled to order.

UPDATE: Senator Warner has issued a statement.
I voted in support of the Senate health care bill. While this legislation is far from perfect, I believe it will start to curb soaring health care costs for consumers and businesses, reduce our federal budget deficits over time, and extend the life of the Medicare program.

In addition, a dozen of my freshman colleagues worked together to successfully add significant cost containment measures to the Senate proposal, and we have expanded programs that deliver higher-quality care at lower cost. Our amendments, which encourage innovation, broaden transparency and aggressively attack inefficiency and fraud, have received bipartisan support, as well as endorsements from AARP, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, and major businesses that make-up The Business Roundtable.

Rising medical costs are strangling the American economy, hurting American families, and killing our ability to compete globally. This legislation represents a strong start, and includes almost every approach suggested by leading experts to try to tackle medical costs that have more than doubled in the past decade.

As this bill moves to conference, the focus must remain on the goals of reducing health care costs, increasing efficiency and accountability, and incorporating private-sector solutions to our health care challenges.

UPDATE #2: Barack Obama sends an email to Organizing for America.
Although it's Christmas Eve, I wanted to share some exciting news: The Senate just passed a historic health reform bill.

In all the back and forth, it's easy to lose sight of what this incredible breakthrough really means. But consider this: This Christmas, there are millions of Americans without health insurance who risk losing everything if they get sick.

There are mothers and fathers who wonder how they'll provide for their children because an illness has wiped out their savings. There are small business owners who worry that they'll have to lay off a long-time employee because the cost of insurance is rapidly rising.

If we finish the job, all this can change. We will have beaten back the special interests who have for so long perpetuated the status quo. We will have enacted the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important health reform since Medicare in the 1960s.

In Decembers to come, millions more will have access to affordable coverage. Parents will have the security and stability of knowing their insurance can't be revoked at a moment's notice. And the skyrocketing costs plaguing our small businesses will be brought under control.

When you make calls, write letters, organize, this is the change you're making -- a better life for your family and for men and women in every state.

There is still more to do before I can sign reform into law -- a last round of negotiations and final votes in the Senate and the House -- and I'm counting on your help every step of the way. But for now, I hope that as you celebrate this holiday season, you remember that the work you are doing is making our union more perfect, one step at a time. For that, I am grateful to you.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays,

President Barack Obama