Amidst a DC blizzard Senators arrived for a cloture vote that began at 1:01am EST to determine whether or not to end the debate on major amendments for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The result was a 60-40 party-line vote.

Bitter words were on the lips of Senators on both sides of the aisle. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) implored that at least one Democrat vote against cloture, but his pleas were unheeded. “People have to show up, and people have to vote. At least three more times,” he told reporters. This “is not over, by any stretch.”

“If the Republicans want to exercise every single right they have under the rules, they can keep us here until Christmas Eve, no doubt about it,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). “But to what end, I ask? To what end? We’re going to have the vote at 1 a.m. that requires 60 votes, and then why stay here until Christmas Eve to do what they know we’re going to do?”

The votes were made via the formality of each Senator standing at their desk and casting their vote at the request of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Despite the lateness of the hour Victoria Kennedy, widow of the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), attended along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, and the director of the White House Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle.

Victoria Kennedy recently wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in which she expressed her support for the bill and made known that her late husband would have voted in favor of it. After the vote Kennedy was embraced by many of the Senators who greeted her with warm words. “Without him, it never would have happened,” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) told her. “He’s smiling tonight,” Victoria Kennedy told Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT). “This is a big step. You’ve made history.”

“The historic moment before us is the easiest choice and perhaps the most historic vote we may ever cast as United States senators,” said Senator Paul Kirk (D-MA) who was named the late Senator Kennedy’s successor.  “Is this a bill of real reform that Ted Kennedy would champion and vote for? Absolutely, yes. Ted Kennedy knew real reform when he saw it, and so do I.”

The bill received a further endorsement from the White House via an op-ed authored by Vice President Joe Biden in the New York Times. “While it is not perfect, the bill pending in the Senate today is not just good enough — it is very good,” wrote the Vice President.

The procedural vote was the first of three before the bill comes before the Senate at 7:00pm EST Christmas Eve. If it should pass it would then be brought before a conference committee in the hopes of reconciling the differences between the House bill and the Senate bill.

The next vote will be whether or not to include the compromise language in the bill on Tuesday. Wednesday’s vote will determine if the debate about the actual bill will come to a close. Further information about the procedures and formalities can be found at

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From the LATimes:

Senate Democrats get 60 votes to move healthcare bill along

The Senate’s dramatic first vote to shut down the Republican filibuster capped a weekend session that marked the third time in the last month that the Senate has met on Saturday and Sunday. The vote, at 1 a.m. today Eastern time, was on whether to limit debate on Reid’s manager’s amendment, which includes the compromises required to unite the Democratic caucus.

Two more procedural votes will be needed before the bill comes to a final vote: On Tuesday to close debate over whether to insert the compromise language into the healthcare bill, and on Wednesday to close debate on the bill itself.

If all cloture motions pass — as seems likely — the Senate can vote on the bill itself before Christmas.


First, thanks to all on PPOV for providing this forum. I found the TPM article (and many of the comments!) interesting:


Because conservative Democrats have more leverage than do their progressive counterparts–because each one has the power to kill the legislation, and have been clear that they will if the bill moves significantly to the left–the smart money is on House liberals being asked to swallow a bill that doesn’t contain many of the provisions they value the most. Particularly, the public option.

And that will widen an already yawning rift between the progressive base and the White House and Democratic leadership. How that all shakes out–what liberals get in return for accepting a less progressive bill, who decides to support the bill, what the outside groups do, and how the party responds–is where the action will be in the weeks ahead.

KQµårk 死神

Thanks for the heads up. Very interesting.


Wow. That was quick!


I really like this article. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened (we don’t always get the most accurate reports over here) and this article is concise (and yet somehow lively, too)… and, as I’ve said, has real clarity.


Excellent post, Scherz. Thanks for explaining what those next votes were about. I am still mystified by these arcane procedures in the Senate and have never followed a bill this closely before. Despite all my doubts and disappointments about certain aspects, I find myself increasingly excited about the bill passing. I am ready to get this show on the road!


I heard from someone here I think that republicans were praying that Sen Byrd would not show up? I bet my God is chastising them even now. What a horrible thing to do.

Pepe Lepew

Washington Post:

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon — nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation’s passage — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” he said. “That’s what they ought to pray.”

It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads — but without his vote, Democrats wouldn’t have the 60 votes they needed.


They are below disgusting. It amazes me these people even have families. I hope they are nicer to their families. I just don’t get that sort of mentality.


I had heard a vague story about this but I didn’t realize it was referring to Byrd. What a bunch of bastards!