WASHINGTON - On Thursday, Christmas Eve morning, the U.S. Senate passed a measure which will bring massive changes to the nation's healthcare system.
But as approval numbers for Democrats fall, Republicans are planning their strategy for winning big in next year's midterm elections.
A Health Care Backlash?
As the debate on the Senate's health care bill wrapped up, Democrats took a victory lap, celebrating Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as a legislative hero.
"To put it in Biblical terms, Harry Reid has the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the endurance of Samson," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
"It will not be long now until consumers will be able to shop for quality insurance," Finance Committe Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said.
However, Americans will feel the pain before receiving any benefits from the legislation. Taxes and fees on individuals and insurers will take effect quickly under the proposed plan.
Most of the 30 million uninsured won't be covered for at least another four years.
"How did this happen? How did a great national debate that was supposed to lead to a major bipartisan reform lead to a bag full of cheap legislative tricks?" Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked.
Meanwhile, as the legislation advances, President Barack Obama's popularity is plummeting.
The latest Rasmussen poll shows 56 percent of voters disapprove of the job he's doing. That mirrors the 55 percent who now oppose the health care legislation.
House Dem Defects to GOP
The figures have Republicans gearing up for gains in next year's mid-term elections.
There is already one convert. Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Ala. announced Tuesday he is switching parties.
"I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our country and drive us further and further into debt," Griffith said at a Tuesday press conference.
When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next year, they'll have to marry the House and Senate versions of the health care reform bills.
The issue that could sink the whole deal is public funding for abortion. The House language preventing it is stronger than the Senate version and pro-life Democrats who are capable of blocking a final vote are already feeling heat from the White House.
Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America said, "Our goal is to make sure that those House Democrats don't get bought off."
The debate is expected to continue long after the Senate passes its bill. Disagreements over abortion funding could push talks into February.
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