WASHINGTON - After negotiating into the night Friday to help win over holdout Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sen. Charles Schumer Saturday hailed the Democrats' apparent success in getting the 60 votes they need to move ahead on their health-care overhaul bill.
Nelson came around after Senate Democratic leaders crafted a compromise on abortion and added Medicaid money for his state, setting up a test vote to break the expected Republican filibuster at 1 a.m. Monday.
"It shows that the bill will reduce the deficit by $132 billion in the first decade, and 1.3 trillion in the decade after that," Schumer said. "This is the primary reason there will be at least 60 votes for this bill."
Republicans in the Senate and House spurned the abortion deal and continued to adamantly oppose the bill itself.
"The so-called abortion compromise is deficient and the overall bill is still horrendous," Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Saturday.
The compromise, which will let states opt out of allowing abortion to be covered in new insurance exchanges created by the legislation, won the support of many Senate liberals.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has been outspoken in opposing limits placed on abortion by the Stupak Amendment - which bans plans operating in the exchange from covering most abortions - in the House, was with her family Saturday and unavailable for comment, her spokeswoman Bethany Lesser said.
The final vote on the Senate version of the health bill is now set for 7 p.m. Christmas Eve.
"It's about time that the Senate acted, but we still have work to do," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who said the Senate bill is not perfect but a "good start."
"Although this bill doesn't include everything I want, it will stop insurance companies from denying treatments because of pre-existing conditions and it will protect my constituents from insurance company abuses and rip-offs."
Schumer has become friends with Nelson, and just last month went to Nebraska to hunt pheasant with him, aides said.
"There were many times we thought we couldn't come to an agreement," Schumer said. "But I think we all realized that whatever our individual views, we had to get this done."