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Health Care Reform Survives Final Vote

Lincoln is one of the most endangered Senate Democratic incumbents this year, while Nelson had previously announced his opposition to the inclusion of provisions eliminating government subsidies to banks that offer student loans. Nelson indicated that his decision to vote with the Republicans on most amendments was related to his opposition to the bill. Nelson joked about his decision to vote with the minority on several of their amendments, all of which failed, saying: “Maybe they voted with me.”

Despite their ability to find two small provisions to strike, Republicans gave grudging respect to Democrats for their efforts to prevent the bill from falling victim to points of order. “They did a pretty good job of scrubbing the reconciliation bill,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) also seemed to compliment Republicans for their tenacity in looking for points of order that would force the House to revote.

For example, Republicans successfully challenged language in the bill that would make the reconciliation law conform with other laws — routine language for almost all legislation.

“It is such a nothing that nobody thought would be an issue,” Conrad said. “That’s just not typically something that would be any kind of a flag.”

Conrad said he told Republican leaders early Thursday morning, “I could have spent two years going over that bill. I would have never thought that was” a violation of budget reconciliation rules.

The other provision that was struck from the bill dealt with formulas for the maximum Pell Grant award, but Conrad said the issue was minor enough that the committees of jurisdiction could wait until the next Congress to deal with the issue.

Successful budget points of order have the effect of striking offending language from the bill, thereby amending it. Sixty votes — one more than the Senate Democratic Conference has — are needed to retain such provisions.

David M. Drucker contributed to this report.

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