Two Democratic Senators needed to sign on to health care debate
Sen. Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, said on Friday that he would vote to begin debate, this evening, on the Senate's health care bill. Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, both Democrats, have not yet committed to taking up the legislation, but are expected to do so. Both Senators are needed to sign on to the debate in order for the Senate to have the necessary 60 procedural votes to begin debating the bill. No Senate Republicans are expected to vote for this evening's debate.
Senate Democratic leaders have clinched the votes needed to advance their health care bill into another round of debate, as Sen. Blanche Lincoln said Saturday afternoon she would vote 'yes' on a crucial procedural vote later in the day.
Democratic leaders entered the day two votes shy of the 60 needed to open formal debate on their massive health care reform package. But with the Arkansas Democrat announcing on the Senate floor that she would vote 'yes' for the scheduled 8 p.m. procedural vote, Democrats finally secured the necessary support to keep the bill alive.
Another holdout, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, two hours earlier also broke her silence and also promised to vote 'yes' Saturday night.
Sen. Nelson, who has reservations about the bill, and who had reservations about supporting the procedural vote, was quoted in the L.A. times as issuing a statement on Friday in which he said, "It is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements." Sen. Nelson went on to say that, "If you don't like a bill, why block your own opportunity to amend it? . . . I won't slam the doors of the Senate in the face of Nebraskans now. They want the healthcare system fixed. The Senate owes them a full and open debate to try to do so."
Senator Nelson, in Friday's statement, also said, “Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct. That's what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about. “It is not for or against the new Senate health care bill released Wednesday. “It is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements. If you don't like a bill why block your own opportunity to amend it?
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said that the bill, "will save lives and it will save money."
Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky asked the question, “Why are we trying to do this — pass this 2,000-page bill that the American people oppose — when we ought to be addressing matters that are clearly needed and urgent?”
Senate Republicans, view the call this week for fewer cancer screenings for women under 50 and fewer cervical cancer screenings for women under30, by the The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force as an indication of the type of health care rationing and cost-cutting measures that will occur if the health care bill debated tonight in the Senate is passed. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's recommendations are typically followed by insurance companies and Medicare. As a result, Senate Republicans fear that insurance companies will potentially deny coverage for mammograms and cervical cancer tests.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, said the studies were a "peek under the curtain, if you will, of what we can anticipate with a government-run program."
"The real concern and the focus here is that we in this legislation give to the secretary of health and [human] services a great deal of control, a great deal of authority," while allowing "medical councils that are not elected, that are not appointed, to make medical decisions about whether or not our procedures will be covered," she said.