Senate health care vote: 'defining' moment or 'abomination'?
Seldom, if ever, in US history has the partisan divide on such a big legislative step been so stark. The 60-to-39 Senate health care vote along party lines may make it far more difficult for the Senate to work on issues that lie ahead.
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Insurance industry wary
Reaction from the insurance industry was negative, though guarded. In a statement, Karen Ignagni, head of America's Heath Insurance Plans, said providing all Americans with health coverage is crucial for the country but that specific provisions in the Senate bill would increase healthcare costs, reduce coverage options, and disrupt current insurance arrangements.Skip to next paragraph
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"These issues can and should be addressed if healthcare reform is going to fulfill the promise of providing all Americans with guaranteed access to affordable, portable healthcare coverage," said Ms. Ignagni.
Seniors' lobby pleased
The powerful US seniors' lobby, in contrast, welcomed the Senate's action. By passing the bill, senators have brough the nation closer than ever to meaningful reform, said A. Barry Rand, head of the AARP.
The legislation prevents coverage denials, limits insurance companies from charging seniors much more for coverage due to their age, and fills gaps in Medicare's prescription-drug coverage, said Mr. Rand.
"AARP thanks the Senate for advancing this critical legislation," he said in a statement.
Unusual timing for a vote
It was the first time the Senate voted on the day before Christmas since 1895, according to the Senate Historical Office. For some of those present, the vote had an extra, personal dimension.
Rep. John Dingell (D) of Michigan also witnessed the Senate action. Representative Dingell, a longtime champion of his state's auto industry, has fought for expanded healthcare his whole career – as did his father, also a Michigan congressman.
"This is for me, this is for my dad, this for the country," said Dingell after the vote.
Republicans, for their part, were somber and angry. House minority leader John Boehner called the changes contained within the bill "cruel and greedy."
The partisan divide is such that Democrats now own healthcare reform. If it succeeds in coming years, they may benefit politically. If it struggles, it may drag them down.
Republicans, similarly, own the opposite side of this issue. If the debt skyrockets and the economy struggles, they could look prescient. If the programs succeed, then the Christmas Eve vote could become something analogous to the GOP's opposition to the creation of Medicare – something with which Democrats can assail them at every electoral opportunity.
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