Democrats Hit Magic Number of 60, Will Move Ahead On Health Care Bill


capitol-hillDemocrats have hit the magic number of 60 to move ahead on historic health care legislation. Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln this afternoon said on the Senate floor that she will vote with her party, hours before the 8 p.m. roll call. She said it was important that the Senate begin debate on a critical issue.

The centrist Democrat, who faces a tough re-election next year, was the lone holdout. Facing unanimous Republican opposition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needed the 58 Democrats and two independents to vote to move forward on the sweeping bill to remake the nation’s health care system.

Shortly before 1 p.m., another centrist fence-sitter, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, said she would vote yes.

“I’ve decided that there are enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done,” she said on the Senate floor.

A largely overlooked provision in the Senate bill would send $100 million to Louisiana to help it cover costs for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. In her speech, Ms. Landrieu rejected the notion that she was voting to advance the bill simply because of the money.

“I am not going to be defensive about asking for help in this situation,” she said, recalling the devastation inflicted on her state by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and her Republican governor’s support for the provision. “I’m proud to have asked for it. I’m proud to have fought for it. And I will continue to.”

During earlier debate on the bill, Democrats called a revamp of the nation’s health care system long overdue.

{News Agencies/ Newscenter}