It was a tale of two parties in the wee hours of Monday morning, as Democrats were all smiles and Republicans were a bit glum and clearly frustrated on health care legislation in the Senate.
As Senators in both parties battled in increasingly partisan exchanges on the floor, Democrats won the first big test vote on health care reform, as the Senate voted 60-40 to shut off debate on the latest revisions unveiled by Democrats on Saturday.
“We’re poised to make a monumental vote,” said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), just before the 1 am Monday cloture vote.
With the widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on hand in the gallery, Senators sat at their desk and cast their votes straight down party lines.
“The final product is a mess,” said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“60 votes represents 60 percent of this body,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “but I can assure my friends on the other side of the aisle that it does not represent 60 percent of the American people.”
Speaking a few minutes after midnight, McCain again blistered President Obama for pledging that health care negotiations would take place in front of the C-SPAN TV cameras, as the former GOP Presidential nominee vowed that Republicans would keep battling.
“We have not yet begun to fight,” said McCain, paraphrasing Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones.
Now that cloture has been invoked on the latest batch of changes from Democrats, next will be a vote to approve those plans at 7:20 am on Tuesday.
Right after that, Democrats will need 60 votes again, to force final action on another batch of changes unveiled a few weeks ago.
Those would be voted on Wednesday afternoon, followed by a third and final cloture vote, this time on the underlying bill as amended.
If Republicans want to take all the time at their disposal, then a final vote on this health care bill would occur around 8 or 9 pm on Thursday night – Christmas Eve.
There are a lot of people around the Capitol who are hoping that time gets moved up.