Nevertheless, the bill inches forward:
WASHINGTON – Jubilant Democrats locked in Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson as the 60th and decisive vote for historic health care legislation Saturday, putting President Barack Obama's signature issue firmly on a path for Christmas Eve passage.
At the White House, Obama swiftly welcomed the breakthrough, saying, "After a nearly century-long struggle, we are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality in the United States of America."
In the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid smiled broadly when asked if Nelson's decision gave him the 60-vote majority necessary to overcome solid Republican opposition. "Seems that way," he said. The Nevada Democrat agreed to a series of concessions on abortion and other issues demanded by Nelson in daylong talks on Friday, then informed Obama of the agreement in a late night phone call as the president flew home from climate talks in Copenhagen.
The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who lack it. It also imposes new regulations to curb abuses of the insurance industry, and the president noted one last-minute addition would impose penalties on companies that "arbitrarily jack up prices" in advance of the legislation taking effect.
CBO analysts also said the legislation would cut federal deficits by $132 billion over 10 years and possibly much more in the subsequent decade.
The developments unfolded on a day of improbables — a snowstorm enveloped the Capitol, creating whiteout conditions outside; while inside senators staged dueling news conferences as if their presence on the Saturday before Christmas was the rule rather than the rarest of exceptions.