As Senate Republicans launched an all-out offensive against the health care compromise, Democrats sought to shore up the support of their liberals, invoking the legacy of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and vowing to push forward a new round of reform in the future.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and others repeatedly referred to Kennedy, who died on Aug. 25 of brain cancer, to make the case for passing the overhaul. Kennedy long championed comprehensive health care reform and before he died called it the cause of my life.
Dodd, Kennedys longtime friend, said, Ted Kennedy never stopped believing. He praised Reids efforts and called the final version of the legislation unveiled by Reid on Saturday the most difficult task that Ive seen in my 30 years here.
Reid acknowledged that some in the liberal flank may find the bill insufficient, but he maintained that it will make significant progress toward fixing the nations health care system.
Some who are progressives, they feel this bill doesnt go far enough [but] this bill will do so many good things for people, Reid said, adding that, the broken system cannot continue and it will not continue.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) vowed that Democrats will continue to work on health care reform and promised more legislative fixes in the future.
What were building here is not a mansion. Its a starter home. But its got a great foundation. This is not the end of health care reform, its the beginning of health care reform, Harkin said.
Harkin, Dodd and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also hailed Reids work on the bill. The managers amendment introduced today by Leader Reid makes this good bill even better, Baucus said, while Harkin called Reid the Democrats quarterback.
He called the plays, and now we have the goal in sight, he said.
But while Democrats were tamping down any liberal unrest, Republicans were busily trying to foment a revolt from party moderates.
Youve got to congratulate Ben Nelson for playing the price is right, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) charged at a press conference, referring to Medicaid subsidies in the bill for the Nebraska. If youre a taxpayer in Arkansas, youre going to have to pay taxes for the people of Nebraska.
Republicans continued to blast the Democrats for insisting that a bill be passed by Christmas. They said that pace has created a toxic environment in the Senate and underscores why the public is so unhappy with its government.
This bill reaffirms everything that people hate about their Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, later adding: This is not about health care reform. This is about the Democratic party trying to save themselves.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the components of the bill, highlighting its tax provisions on medical devices, health benefits and working families. At a press conference, McConnell said he would continue to employ procedural tactics to delay final passage of the bill, which he called a legislative train wreck.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.