Will Dems Get Their Health Care Christmas Wish?

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Healthcare reform took a big step forward during Monday's predawn hours as the Senate voted 60 to 40 for sweeping legislation backed by President Barack Obama.

A final Senate vote is expected to take place on Christmas Eve.

"We'll get this passed before Christmas and it's be one of the best Christmas presents this Congress has ever given the American people," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa said.

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Click play for more analysis with CBN News Washington Correspondents John Jessup and Jennifer Wishon.

During one of Washington's worst blizzards, 58 Democrats and two Independents came together in favor of the bill.

The breakthrough came when leaders negotiated a compromise with Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who had held out for abortion restrictions.

Nelson had wanted a tougher ban on tax dollars paying for insurance coverage of abortions. He also got an additional $100 million for his state's Medicaid program.

Republicans accused Democrats of ramming the bill through Congress and vowed to use the issue in next year's elections.

"But my message tonight is this -- the impact of this vote will long outlive this one frantic, snowy weekend in Washington. Mark my words: This legislation will reshape our nation," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned.

The bill would require Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Taxpayers would foot the bill for those who can't afford insurance. And insurance companies could no longer deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.

But more hurdles remain. The House bill includes the public option plan. Obama will have to negotiate a new compromise between the House and Senate in January.

Although the Senate vote is considered key, Democrats must clear two more 60-vote hurdles. While Republicans can delay final passage until Christmas, they aren't expected to be able to prevent it.

Click here to see a side by side comparison of the health care bills in Congress and the Senate.

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.