The Senate cleared its year-end plate of some must-do work Saturday as it passed a critical budget bill that blends money for the Pentagon with additional help for the jobless.
The early morning 88-10 vote, taken as a blizzard buffeted the Capitol, permitted lawmakers to resume their acrimonious debate on health care, which Democrats now expect to finish by Christmas. The spending measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
It wraps up work on perhaps Congress' most fundamental job: funding the annual budgets of Cabinet agencies and the rest of the government.
Senate Democrats appear within reach of the 60 votes necessary to pass President Barack Obama's health care legislation after a long year of struggle and a final burst of deadline bargaining with holdout Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Emerging from marathon talks with Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House officials late Friday night, Nelson said "real progress" had been made toward his call for greater restrictions on abortion within the legislation.
Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to go public a final package of changes in the long-debated legislation on Saturday "and is confident that it will prevail," his spokesman, Jim Manley, said in a late-night statement.
For the first time in Gallup's annual Honesty and Ethics of Professions poll, a majority of Americans -- 55% -- say the honesty and ethical standards of "members of Congress" are low or very low -- slightly worse than "senators," whose ethics are rated low by 49%. By contrast, 83% of Americans say nurses have either very high or high ethical standards, positioning them at the top of Gallup's 2009 ranking of various professions.
The percentage of Americans now believing that members of Congress have low ethics is up from 46% in 2008 and 45% in 2007, and has more than doubled since the start of the decade -- rising from 21% in November 2000 to 55% today.
Must-pass legislation that wraps up the bulk of the remaining congressional agenda besides health care easily cleared a key Senate hurdles early Friday morning.
Anchored by a $626 billion Pentagon funding bill, the measure also carries short-term extensions of unemployment benefits, highway and transit funding, key pieces of the anti-terror Patriot Act and prevents doctors from shouldering a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments.
The timing of the 63-33 post-midnight tally — which blocked GOP stalling tactics and forced a final vote to clear the bill for President Barack Obama no later than Saturday — was governed more by the brawl over health care than significant opposition to the defense measure or its additional baggage.
It's one of the oldest spectator sports in American politics: Democrat vs. Democrat. Welcome to the health care overhaul edition.Read More
With just days remaining to prove that they can meet a self-imposed Christmas deadline and pass President Barack Obama's signature initiative through the Senate, Democrats seeking a rendezvous with history instead detoured to an intraparty brawl.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was poised to release the latest version of the Senate legislation as early as Friday, but it was unclear what kind of reception he'd get. Labor leaders said the bill was soft on the insurance industry, and former party chairman Howard Dean said he'd vote against it if he were a senator.
Sen. Lindsey Graham makes an unlikely champion for action on climate change.
The South Carolina Republican has joined forces with Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to drum up support for a bill that would put a price on heat-trapping pollution.
Graham's position has irked just about everybody. He has been censured by Republicans back home for supporting a bill that would clamp down on greenhouse gases. Environmentalists have criticized his push for nuclear energy, more oil drilling — and most recently his support of a GOP effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Some Democrats are just befuddled.
The liberals' longtime dream of a government-run health care system for all died Wednesday in the Senate, but Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed it will return when the realization dawns that private insurance companies "are no longer needed."
The proposal's demise came as Senate Democratic leaders and the White House sought agreement with Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., to become the 60th supporter of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul — the number needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
The U.S. Senate staggered toward the healthcare finish line on Wednesday, as Republicans used new tactics to delay debate and a Democratic holdout remained uncommitted after meeting President Barack Obama.
With Democrats racing the clock to finish before Christmas, the slow-moving Senate healthcare debate ground to a complete halt for several hours as Republicans forced the reading of a 767-page amendment.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn invoked his right to require an amendment by independent Senator Bernie Sanders be read aloud by a Senate clerk -- a task that dragged on for more than three hours before Sanders pulled his amendment.
It's an annual ordeal for many seniors living on a budget. Medicare's coverage gap for prescription drugs — $3,610 next year — has steadily gotten bigger since the benefit's inception. But if Democrats have their way on health care overhaul, the dreaded "doughnut hole" will shrink by $500 right away and go away altogether by 2019.
With the elderly worried that Medicare cuts in the health care bill will put the quality of their own care in jeopardy, Democrats belatedly are scrambling to convince them otherwise. Lawmakers are eager to make amends with a pivotal political constituency ahead of next year's midterm elections.