Senate passes health care bill

The Senate passed its version of the health care bill this morning with a 60-39 vote. No Republicans voted for the measure.

The bill now must be reconciled with the House’s vastly different version. The Senate’s bill, for example, does not include the government-run health care option, which the House bill does.

Proponents say the legislation will provide health coverage to an additional 30 million people nationwide and will help reduce the budget deficit by $132 billion over a decade. But, critics question those estimates and slam the bill as another step toward socialism.

“This process is not over by a long shot, and I will continue to fight against it every single day,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in a statement.

“Ramming through a bill drafted behind closed doors and stuffed with special deals to secure the votes of certain senators was the wrong way to go about this debate,” Isakson said. “The health care of the American people is too important for the Senate to exploit it so politically in this manner. This has not been a thoughtful process, and it is an unfortunate way to do business.

On the eve of the bill’s passage, Isakson and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., asked Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, to investigate whether a provision that requires federal taxpayers to cover the cost of new Medicaid beneficiaries in Nebraska is constitutional. Democrats added the provision to gain the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

“This health care legislation will expand Medicaid eligibility by requiring states to cover all residents with incomes of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level,” the senators wrote in a letter to Baker. “This will increase the financial burden in Georgia by hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when our state can least afford it.

“We have serious concerns about the constitutionality of the special deal for Nebraska as it results in special treatment for only one state in the nation at the expense of the other 49,” they added. “While Georgia will have to struggle to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with the massive new federal Medicaid mandate, Nebraska does not have to come up with a single dollar.”

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