We're one step closer to passing this historic healthcare bill. A year ago, I would have put the odds of this passing the Senate right up there with... well, with the odds of the Vatican praising "The Simpsons."
Now it's on to the House, where hopefully the Democratic liberals will try to undo the conservative damage that's been done:
The Senate passed a landmark health-care bill Thursday morning that would provide coverage to more than 30 million people and begin a far-reaching overhaul of Medicare and the private insurance market.
Vice President Biden presided over the 60-39, party line vote, which brings Democrats closer than ever to realizing their 70-year-old goal of universal health coverage.
For the first time, most Americans would be required to obtain health insurance, either through their employer or via new, government-regulated exchanges. Those who can't afford insurance plans would receive federal subsidies. And Medicaid would be vastly expanded to reach millions of low-income children and adults.
Difficult issues must be still resolved in final negotiations with the House, which has passed more liberal health-care reform legislation, and those talks could stretch through January and perhaps into February, Democratic leaders said. But Democrats are increasingly confident that President Obama would sign a bill into law in early 2010.
"Health care reform is not a matter of 'if,' " White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. "Health care reform now is a matter of 'when.' "
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared after Wednesday's vote that: "We stand on the doorstep of history." But he declined to speculate about negotiations with the House.
"I'm not going to talk about conference. I'm talking about passing this bill," he told reporters late Wednesday. For at least a few days after Christmas, Reid said, he would rest back home in Nevada. "I am going to just sit back and watch my rabbits eat my cactus," he said.
Republicans fought the Senate bill with every parliamentary weapon they could muster, raising a series of motions on that failed along party lines. The rhetoric grew more harsh as time ran short.
The last preliminary vote came Wednesday, when all 60 members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted down the final possibility for a Republican filibuster of the $871 billion package.