Friday Senate Democrats pushed toward a crucial vote on their sweeping health care bill. Meanwhile, moderates Democrats appeared to be falling in line on President Barack Obama's signature issue.
One of three uncommitted centrists, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, announced he'd vote with his party's leaders on Saturday's must-pass procedural measure allowing debate to go forward.
Nelson said in a statement that it didn't mean he'd back the final bill, but that Nebraskans wanted changes to the health care system. "The Senate owes them a full and open debate," he said.
The nearly $1 trillion, 10-year Senate bill would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, bar insurance company practices like denying coverage to people with medical conditions, and require nearly all individuals to purchase insurance, The Associated Press reports.
It was also reported, Senator Ben Nelson said he would support a procedural motion on Saturday to allow debate on healthcare reform to proceed, even though he is still unsure if he will back the final bill.
"Throughout my Senate career I have consistently rejected efforts to obstruct. That's what the vote on the motion to proceed is all about," he said in a statement.
"It is only to begin debate and an opportunity to make improvements. If you don't like a bill why block your own opportunity to amend it?" he said.
Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu remain uncommitted on the vote to proceed to debate on the overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system, President Barack Obama's top domestic priority, Reuters reports.
In the meantime, Republicans ripped Democrats for pushing a bill that conservatives say will force millions of Americans to drop insurance plans they like while jacking up premiums and doing nothing to slow spiraling medical costs.
The harsh rhetoric was backdrop for a rare Saturday night Senate vote on whether to proceed formally with floor debate on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's sweeping $848 billion health care bill.
If Republicans stay unified in opposition to the bill, Reid will need the support of all 58 Senate Democrats along with independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to reach the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
Two key Democratic moderates -- Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- have refused to indicate publicly if they'll back Reid. Each has expressed concern about the cost and scope of the legislation, CNN reports.
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