Washington (CNN) — Senate Democrats braved the aftermath of a blizzard Sunday to continue their push to pass a sweeping health care bill before Christmas.
The Senate began an all-day session to be followed by a crucial vote scheduled for after midnight on changes crafted by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to gain support for the bill from all 60 members of the Democratic caucus.
With Republicans unanimously opposed, Democrats need the support of their entire caucus to overcome a filibuster and move to a final vote on the bill later this week.
“We have had a long, arduous and I think sometimes taxing debate to reach this moment,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, to open the session. “I think it’s time for a vote.”
A key hurdle was cleared Saturday when the last Democratic holdout, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, agreed to support the bill in return for compromise language on federal funding for abortion and more money for his state.
The House of Representatives already has passed its health care bill, and if the Senate also passes legislation, the two versions would be merged by a conference committee.
Obama had wanted to sign the bill by the end of year, but his senior adviser, David Axelrod, acknowledged Sunday that wouldn’t happen.
Both Axelrod and Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday the Senate bill lacks some provisions the Obama administration wanted, but that it would bring much-needed health care reforms.
Republicans, however, accused the Senate’s Democratic majority of working secretly to force through a poorly conceived bill that required special deals with recalcitrant caucus members.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the wheeling and dealing “personifies the worst” in how Washington operates, while Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, lamented the rushed voting schedule.
“If you want to go home for Christmas, you’ve got to go through these series of votes and vote for it,” Kyl said on ABC’s “This Week.”