Senate Democrats Clear Health Care Hurdle, 60-39
Reid gets 60 votes to open full debate after Thanksgiving recess
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2009 7:13 PM CST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid smiles during a news conference Thursday.   (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

(Newser) – Harry Reid's hope of passing health care legislation before Christmas took a giant step forward tonight. Reid got the 60 votes he needed to ward off a Republican filibuster and clear the way for full debate on the Senate floor after the Thanksgiving recess. "We can see the finish line now," said Reid after the vote. The measure to move the legislation forward passed 60-39, with no Republicans in favor, reports AP. Ohio Republican George Voinovich, who previously announced his opposition, didn't vote.

The victory for Democrats came after late holdouts Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln decided to vote with their party, with both warning that they expected changes in the final legislation, notes the Washington Post. One of the key issues will be how the public option shapes up. A key centrist, Ben Nelson, also wants tougher language stipulating that no federal money will be used for abortions. The $849 billion Senate bill is expected to extend coverage to an additional 31 million Americans.