Democrats Are United -- For Now
The Senate has voted to move forward with the health care bill. The vote was 60-39 in favor of debating the bill put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
At least for the moment, Democrats are united behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
All 60 members of the party's caucus have publicly pledged to back him in key vote on the Senate floor Saturday night -- this one to allow debate to proceed on Reid's health care reform bill.
But that unity may not last.
"That was the easy part. Now it's only going to get tougher from here on out," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told HuffPost.
Back-to-back announcements on the Senate floor on Saturday from the two remaining holdouts -- Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, followed by Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln -- put Reid over the top, giving him the 60 votes he needs to overcome the expected Republican filibuster.
The official vote will be called at 8:00 Saturday evening. The Senate will then move to several weeks of floor debate and amendments, followed by another crucial vote to end a second expected filibuster and move to a final tally.
A handful of Democrats are still threatening to filibuster the final bill if certain changes aren't made. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is insisting on the removal of a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers, many of which are based in his home state of Connecticut.
Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Landrieu and Lincoln are also withholding their final support, and trying to extract concessions.
"My vote today to move forward," Landrieu said on the floor, "should in no way be construed" as an indication that she'll back the final bill. "Much work needs to be done," she said.
Lincoln, who could face a primary challenge over her health care stand, similarly said she'd work to amend the bill and expressed her concerns with protecting private insurers from being required to compete with a public plan.
"Rather than create an entirely new government-run health care plan to compete with private insurers. I support health insurance reform that focuses on changing the rules of our existing employer-based private health insurance system," Lincoln said. "I believe we should change the current rules that permit insurance companies to bully their customers and cherry pick healthy patients, so we can force them to compete with each other. This initial procedural vote simply allows us to open debate on health care reform, nothing more or less. My decision to support this vote is not my last nor is it my only chance to shape health insurance reform."
If the Senate does pass a bill, House and Senate conferees will then meet to hash out the considerable differences between their packages. Each chamber must then approve the compromise before it heads to the president's desk for his signature.