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Senate Passes Health Care Overhaul Bill 60 to 39

December 24, 2009 -- Just as their counterparts did in the House in early November, Democrats in the Senate coalesced in the face of a unified Republican Party early Thursday to win passage of legislation overhauling the nation's health care system. This time the closing of the ranks behind President Obama’s top domestic priority was even more impressive; all 60 of the senators who caucus with the Democratic party voted to approve the measure (HR 3590).

But as House and Senate Democrats prepare for a conference to resolve differences between their bills, they face an even more unified and perhaps resurgent Republican Party. Moving into 2010, it's a party that sees public unease over the massive overhaul bill as a powerful weapon for reversing  its recent election losses.

Democrats, meanwhile, head back to their home districts facing a hostile public–or so say Republicans citing polling results.  And when Democrats come back, they must bridge deep internal differences over issues such as abortion, immigration, and tax policy to help finance an overhaul or watch their unity fracture when it's needed the most.

But Democrats have returned from hostile visits home before. Despite angry criticism at August town hall meetings, they came back to give their president historic victories on health care in both the House and the Senate. And Obama has managed to keep the party focused on the prize of passing historic legislation despite anger in the ranks at having to compromise away cherished goals like the public option in order to win.

In an interview with National Public Radio on Wednesday, Obama was already signaling the way forward. When asked how he'd bridge the divide between Democrats in the Senate who don't like the surtax on the wealthy and Democrats in the House who don't like the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, Obama said it's likely the final package would include a bit of both.

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