Sweeping health care legislation cleared its first hurdle Saturday in the Senate on a party-line vote, paving the way for debate on a massive health insurance overhaul.
The 60-39 vote opens the door for debate on the $848 billion legislation to start after Thanksgiving. The measure is designed to extend coverage over six years to an estimated 31 million Americans who lack it and crack down on insurance industry practices that deny benefits.
The White House released a statement saying, "The president is gratified that the Senate has acted to begin consideration of health insurance reform legislation. Tonight's historic vote brings us one step closer to ending insurance company abuses, reining in spiraling health care costs, providing stability and security to those with health insurance and extending quality health coverage to those who lack it. The president looks forward to a thorough and productive debate."
The rare Saturday session amounted to a first round in the fight to pass the bill in the full Senate, where Democratic holdouts announced they would support at least the measure to open debate on the bill, avoiding an early knockout by Republicans.
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