U.S. Senate Democrats remain on track to pass health care reform legislation by the December 25 Christmas holiday.
The Senate voted to close debate on the health care bill early Monday,
moving the controversial legislation one step closer to a final vote in
the Senate, expected by Thursday - Christmas Eve.
President Barack Obama, who has made passing health care a top domestic
priority, hailed the vote as a "big victory" for the American people.
The American Medical Association announced its support of the Senate
bill on Monday. The association's president-elect, Dr. Cecil Wilson,
made the announcement alongside top Senate Democrats.
Senator Chris Dodd said of all the organizations supporting the bill,
getting the American Medical Association's endorsement was the most
Monday's partisan vote for "cloture" (to stop debate) came
after hours of contentious debate. It passed by the minimum 60 to 40.
All Democrats and two independents voted for an end to debate and all
Republicans voted against.
The House of Representatives has already passed its version of a health
care reform bill. Negotiations for a compromise final version are
expected to begin after Christmas, with President Obama hoping to sign
a bill into law some time early next year.
The proposed legislation would require most Americans to have
insurance, extending coverage to 31 million Americans now uninsured.
The Senate minority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, summed up
Republican opposition, saying the bill is too expensive and does not
fix the problems with the current health care system.
The bill provides subsidies to some Americans to help pay for private
insurance, and bans insurance companies from denying benefits because
of pre-existing conditions.
The United States is the only wealthy industrialized country without
universal health coverage. Various U.S. presidents have pushed
unsuccessfully for such legislation for several decades.