Senate passes health care reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - In an early morning Christmas Eve vote, the Senate passed the historic health care reform by a vote of sixty to thirty-nine.

The Senate voted for the landmark legislation, which could define President Obama's legacy.

The ten-year bill extends coverage to more than thirty million uninsured people. It also prevents insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.

The nearly trillion dollar legislation requires Americans to get insurance and it gives subsidies to lower income folks to pay for it.

The Senate version has to be merged with the House version to come up with a final bill next year, which both houses of Congress will vote on.

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby issued this press release shortly after the vote passed:

WASHINGTON, DC, Thursday, December 24, 2009 -- U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today issued the following statement regarding Senate passage of Democrats' health care legislation by a party-line vote of 60-39.  Shelby opposed the measure.

"This legislation is an abomination in process and substance," said Shelby.  "Conceived behind closed doors and hastily rushed through the Senate in partisan fashion, it is nearly 3,000 pages of 'reform' the American people do not want or need, and have not been given time to examine.

"It dramatically increases the federal government's role in our personal medical decision making.  It contains weak and unacceptable protections for taxpayers who do not want their hard-earned money used to fund abortions.  It raises taxes during a recession when one of every ten Americans is out of work.  It drastically cuts Medicare for our seniors and, instead of applying these funds to make Medicare more solvent or reduce the federal deficit, it uses them to fund yet another new government entitlement.  It requires Americans to purchase insurance and significantly penalizes those who do not.  It raises the Medicaid burden on states when they cannot even afford the burden they already bear.  In spite of what Democrat leaders tell us, it will also dramatically increase the federal deficit.

"Simply stated, this legislation will spend huge amounts of money that we do not have to empower the federal government to ration, and therefore decrease the quality of, our nation's medical services.  We had before us the opportunity to build upon the best health care system in the world.  The Democrats' legislation does the opposite.  This is a day our nation will long regret."