U.S. President Barack Obama received a big Christmas gift a day early. After lengthy negotiations, the Senate passed his health care reform bill that paves the way for universal medical coverage.
The landmark 60-39 vote could very well define Obama’s presidency. The American leader said the government is poised to deliver the most “important piece of social legislation since Social Security passed in the 1930s”.
Fifty-eight Democrats and two independents voted in favour of the bill, while Republicans unanimously rejected it.
Twenty-four days of heated floor debate preceded the Christmas Eve vote, but there are still hurdles to clear before universal health care becomes a reality south of the border.
The bill that passed Thursday must be merged with another piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives in November, which contains different approaches to taxes and abortion.
Once a combined bill is agreed upon by both the House and Senate, it must be approved once more before that piece of paper is placed before Obama to sign into law.
Democrats are hoping to achieve that by the end of January, when the president delivers his State of the Union address.
The bill passed in the Senate would cover 94 per cent of Americans and would end the practice of insurance companies refusing to cover to people with pre-existing medical conditions. Nearly 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance.
The Christmas Eve Senate vote was the first since 1895.