Senators aim to pass health bill before holidays

The Senate is inching closer to passing a health care overhaul before lawmakers leave for the holidays despite fierce Republican opposition.

The bill, which supporters say would extend health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans, cleared another hurdle Tuesday morning, but Republicans say it does more harm than good and are fighting until the bitter end.

Many in the GOP oppose a requirement for almost everyone to purchase insurance. They are also condemning Democrats for making special concessions to some Senators to win their votes.

“How did a great national debate that was supposed to lead to major bipartisan reform lead to a bag of cheap tricks?” asked Senator Mitch McConnell, D-Kentucky.

So far the 58 Democratic senators, with the help of two independents, are standing behind the compromise. They say they won’t leave for their holiday break until they pass the bill, and neither will President Obama.

“I will not leave until my friends in the Senate have completed their work,” said the president.

While final passage is now expected by Christmas Eve, an even tougher challenge awaits lawmakers when they return.

The Senate measure must be merged with the bill that passed in the House, and there are wide gaps over the so-called public option, restrictions on abortion and how to pay for expanding insurance coverage.

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