US senate agrees healthcare bill

The US Senate has voted by 60 to 40 votes to close debate on landmark health care reform legislation backed by President Barack Obama but unanimously opposed by Republican lawmakers. Now, the divided chamber appears to be heading towards a vote to pass the bill on Thursday.

All 100 senators were gathered in the Capitol building for a key procedural vote on health care reform legislation. All 58 Democrats in the Senate, plus the two independents who normally vote with them, voted for cloture, which limits the length of debate. All forty Republicans unanimously opposed the cloture.

The bill would extend health insurance coverage to 30 million US residents who currently lack it, and forbid insurance companies from practices such as denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Most residents would be required to purchase health insurance for the first time, with subsidies provided to those who cannot afford it.

“We’ll get this [bill] passed before Christmas and it will be one of the best Christmas presents this Congress has ever given the American people,” said Democratic senator Tom Harkin.

“This country, the greatest and richest the world has ever seen, is the only advanced nation on earth where dying for a lack of health insurance is even possible,” said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

Most Republicans, however, said they believed the bill is too expensive and would not correct the current problems with the US’s health care.

If the bill passes in the Senate, that version will have to be merged with a more liberal version passed by the House of Representatives which includes a government-run alternative, not included in the Senate version.

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