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Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Through the Senate...

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Mr Mouse | Photo by ccharmon via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr


Mr Mouse | Photo by ccharmon via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
The US Senate convened today -- the day before Christmas -- and passed the Senate's version of the famed health insurance reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This bill will move into conference committee with the House of Representatives' version of the bill in January, before finall passage (Previous discussion of this week's Senate events here). It is not a common occurrence to meet the day before Christmas. The last time the Senate held a roll call on Christmas Eve was in the year 1895, when Senators lifted a ban on government officers who had joined the Confederacy from serving in the post-Civil War military. Below are other interesting facts about the Senate.

  • Today (Christmas Eve) marked the 25th straight day of debate. This is just short of the record for the longest number of consecutive days that the Senate was in session, in the winter of 1917 (thanks to @wonkroom on Twitter for this fact). The extended debate in 1917 was due to anti-war legislators stalling debate about whether or not to arm US merchant ships during World War I.
  • The Christmas spirit inspired some poetry this week, from Illinois Senator Burris. He took to the mic and started with “It was the night before Christmas and all through the Senate, the right held up our health care bill, no matter what was in it.” ...and he went on from there [link to poem transcript and video. Then, the New York Times, uninspired by the average poetry and meter of Burris's rhymes, challenged its readers to think up more rhymes. Readers' submissions are quite entertaining.
  • On the etymology of filibusters: "The term filibuster was first used in 1851. It was derived from the Spanish filibustero meaning pirate or freebooter. This term had evolved from the French word flibustier, which itself evolved from the Dutch vrijbuiter (freebooter). This term was applied at the time to American adventurers, mostly from Southern states, who sought to overthrow the governments of Central American states, and was transferred to the users of the filibuster, seen as a tactic for pirating or hijacking debate." (from Wikipedia)
  • The longest running filibuster in US history was over 75 hours, when southern Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • The filibuster and its buddy -- the cloture vote (the supermajority vote of 60 Senators needed to overcome a debate-halting filibuster) -- were invoked 112 times after the 2006 mid-term elections and projections continue to rise, rendering our American democracy subject to the whims of a few Senators. Here's are two representations of the increased numbers of filibusters and cloture votes -- in table format and in chart format.
  • Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) made these remarks on the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act today: “Today we demonstrated that we will no longer stand by while 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day, nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies result from a personal health care crisis and California families watch their premiums rise four times faster than their incomes. This legislation will make health care more affordable for small businesses and families, end insurance industry abuses, strengthen Medicare, help our seniors afford prescription drugs, and expand coverage to 31 million Americans - all while reducing the deficit."
  • And an excerpt from President Obama's remarks on today's vote: "As I’ve said before, these are not small reforms; these are big reforms. If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s. And what makes it so important is not just its cost savings or its deficit reductions. It’s the impact reform will have on Americans who no longer have to go without a checkup or prescriptions that they need because they can’t afford them; on families who no longer have to worry that a single illness will send them into financial ruin; and on businesses that will no longer face exorbitant insurance rates that hamper their competitiveness. It’s the difference reform will make in the lives of the American people..."

January will bring a new year and the start of heated discussions among legislators, lobbyists, and advocacy organizations to reconcile the major differences in the Senate and the House versions of the health insurance reform bill.