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Senate Dems Clear Last Cloture Hurdle – Health Care Bill’s Passage Expected Tomorrow AM

The Senate just passed a third and final cloture vote, by a count of 60-39, on the health care bill. In prior votes today, Jim Bunning did not vote, so I would assume in advance of a roll call, that he was the missing vote. All members of the Democratic caucus voted for cloture.

Tom Harkin just tried to move up the final vote to tonight from 7am tomorrow, in the interest of accommodating travel schedules, but Republicans objected. So it looks like the final vote will occur tomorrow in the early morning.

After this final vote is passed, the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate bills will begin. We know that Rep. Louise Slaughter wants to scrap the Senate bill, but now two other House progressives have stepped forward. Reps. Lynn Woolsey of the Progressive Caucus and Barbara Lee of the Congressional Black Caucus have announced their support for the House product, demanding a public option in the merged bill.

On the eve of a historic health care vote in the Senate, liberal Democrats in the House have launched a full-throated defense of the public option — a sign of battles to come when party leaders try to meld the two bills.

“Now that the Senate is poised to pass its version of a health care reform bill, it is time to turn to reconciling it with the House legislation,” California Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey said in a joint statement Wednesday. “For Congress to achieve true health care reform we must have a meaningful conference process that integrates both bills into the best possible piece of legislation for the American people.” […]

But it’s clear that they’re not going to roll over, as some senators have suggested they should. “We look forward to working with the House and Senate leadership to ensure that the final legislation provides affordable and comprehensive health care to people who need it.”

Woolsey and Lee’s top priorities are familiar: the public option (“If the bill requires people to buy health insurance, there must be a public option to bring down costs”), better affordability in the form of more generous subsidies, stronger insurance regulations (including repeal of the industry’s anti-trust exemption), the employer mandate (“If individuals are required to buy insurance, employers should be required to provide it.”), and financing through wealth taxes and not the excise tax on high-end insurance plans.

Come tomorrow, the wrangling over the conference committee can begin in earnest.

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David Dayen

David Dayen