8:09 EST: Dodd, presiding over the Senate, said the motion passed, smattering of applause. Motion is agreed to. Clerk is now reporting the bill and amendment.
And that's it for the night. Debate will begin after Thanksgiving, plus amendments, then moving on to the final cloture motion and a final vote.
Here's HCAN's statement on the vote from Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Director:
“By voting to begin debate, Senate Democrats took another key step toward putting a bill on the President's desk that guarantees good, affordable coverage for America's families and businesses.
It is a shame not a single Republican in the Senate could put aside partisan gamesmanship to allow a legislative debate. We thought debating legislation is what Members of Congress were sent to Washington to do. Instead, Republicans continue to shill for the health insurance industry which is trying to kill meaningful reform. Republicans have proven once again they don't know how to say anything but “no.”
Our nation's families and businesses can no longer wait for good, affordable health care with the choice of a public health insurance option, and Senate Democrats clearly understand we have come too far to slow down now.
We look forward to working with Senate Democrats in the coming weeks to make a good bill even better.”
8:04 EST: Cloture passes 60-39. Debate will start after Thanksgiving.
7:57 EST: Voting continuing.
7:56 EST: Clerk reading cloture motion.
The question is: Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the motion to proceed shall be brought to a close. Clerk is calling the roll.
7:55 EST: Vote starting 5 minutes early.
7:54 EST: Absence of a quorum noted by Reid, and the roll is being called. Vote coming soon!
7:44 EST: The American people want us to start over. All it would take is just one on the other side of the aisle to not end the debate, but change the debate.
And he's yielded.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is up.
My friend, the minority leader, has had since Wednesday to read the bill. Obviously he hasn't done so.
We debate the right to live free of disease and death by giving health care for all. The road has started many times, never been completed. Merged bills have never been done before. We couldn't have got here without the help of many Senators.
As a matter of principle, that I respect, the senior Senator from Arkansas insisted we have time to read the bill. All Senators have now had ample time. That is why we are voting tonight.
I invite Republicans to join the right side of history. Around dining room tables, families are agonizing over what to sacrifice next to afford health care. Employers are wondering whether they can afford to provide health care. Americans need reform.
Debate is constant, but the only place where silence is evened considered is the Senate. Now, finally, we have the opportunity to bring this great deliberation to this body. That and nothing more is what this vote does.
A yes vote says this issue is important and the Senate should at least talk about it.
Some Republicans would like Americans to think voting to debate the bill is voting to pass the bill. Tonight's vote is only the beginning of debate. It's clear Republicans have no problem talking about health care on TV, at town hall meetings, on the radio, yet now that we have the legislation to debate, to amend, to build on, will they refuse to debate?
If we refuse to let the Senate do its job, what are we doing here? What do we fear? And who's voice to you speak for? In who's interest do you vote?
Certainly debating reform can't be more difficult than American deciding to pay their mortgage or medical bills. It can't be more upsetting than having an insurance company take away your coverage when you need it the most.
Kennedy once said let us not be afraid of debate or discussion, let us encourage it.
Don't be afraid of debate. It's our job. We Democrats stand ready to do what needs to be done. We welcome debate. The framers intended for debate here. Imagine if instead of debating historic GI bills, this body has stood silent. Instead of debate social security or medicare, the Senate voices had been still. Instead of debating to abolish slavery or give women the right to vote.
Don't try and silence a great debate over a great crisis. Don't say you ran and hid when given the chance to debate this issue. The right response to disagreement is discussion. Democracy is discussion. Let us debate our differences.
7:32 EST: Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is up.
At a time when Americans are looking for jobs, the Chinese lecturing us about our debt, this bill costs 2.5 trillion the government doesn't have and can't afford.
It imposes punishing taxes on almost everyone. It raises premiums for 85% of Americans who already have insurance. It slashed Medicare by half a trillion dollars.
Anyone who votes "aye" tonight is voting for all of these things. It is a fact, a vote in favor of proceeding is a vote in favor of adding to the tax burden of Americans. A vote in favor is a vote to raise premiums, to deep cuts to Medicare, tells every American family sitting in a waiting room tonight that cost is not our concern. A vote in favor is a vote in favor of a spending binge that's leading to a massive long-term deficit.
If there were one Democrat, just one, who would say no tonight, none of this would happen. And then we could start over.
Under this bill, health care costs will go up, not down. 2000+ pages.
We don't want to end debate, we want to change it. Because once this bill is on the floor, the basic dimensions won't change. It's going to take 60 votes to change this bill. That means the bill that's introduced will fundamentally be the bill we'll be asked to pass sometime in the future. That is a fact.
7:25 EST: Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) is up.
Recognizing Kennedy, who "is with us only in spirit."
Then asks why we're all watching C-SPAN on a Saturday evening.
Health care costs is the single biggest threat to our financial future. Never before has this body confronted directly this issue. Health care is our most basic need. No matter how much you make, your hopes and dreams, who you are, where you live, what your job is. In America, we should be able to get the care we need.
For too many health care has become our most basic fear. Can't see a doctor. Premiums skyrocket. You lie awake at night wondering what if you lose your job, or you get sick and find out your policy doesn't cover care you need, or it's canceled altogether.
I wish I could say those fears are irrational, but they're not. Our system is broken. People are losing their homes and dying because they get sick. This is not acceptable in our America. That's why we're here on a Saturday night.
We need all the ideas we can get to fix this. But if you've watched the debate over the last few days, nobody has stood up and said we should do nothing at all. Tonight's vote is nothing more than a choice between doing something and doing nothing. I urge my colleagues to join us.
Dodd has yielded.
7:17 EST: Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is up.
"To be mature means to face, and not evade a crisis." Our health care system is in a crisis, and this crisis will not solve itself. We must face the crisis.
For years we've studied the issue. We've held nearly 70 hearings. We combined a bill and we've brought that combined plan to the Senate floor.
We have a bill that will put Americans, patients, and their doctors back into control. It will end harmful insurance industry practices. No more denials of care. No more hyping up rates for sick Americans. No more taking away health care if you're sick. No more lifetime or annual limits. If you pay your bill, insurance companies must provide you benefits. No more discrimination based on gender. Insurance companies must disclose the share of premiums that go to medical benefits. No longer will insurance companies get tax credits if they pay their CEOs too much.
Our bill is paid for, it will lower costs, and it will reduce the deficit.
Many are happy with their current plans. This bill will not change that. But too many others don't have access to quality insurance. Our bill will give people choice and know exactly what they're buying. Tax credits will help insure all Americans can afford health insurance.
Small businesses will also have access to tax credits, and will be able to spread their risk. And no longer will there be a separate congressional health plan.
Our bill will strengthen Medicare.
We hope to have a full debate. But we have the opportunity at last to face the crisis and show mature leadership.
And Baucus has yielded the floor.
7:10 EST: I believe passionately that we should defeat this bill. We need a bipartisan bill.
Before I came to the Senate, I was a small business owner, a shoe store. When someone said they couldn't afford a shoe, I didn't give them a sales pitch, I found a shoe they could afford. The people in America are complaining, we're showing them the shoe they can't afford.
We have a big decision to make tonight, that will have a lasting effect on our country. If we pass the motion to proceed, we'll debate it for a long time. America will be surprised at the time we waste when we could be doing jobs and the economy.
And Enzi has yielded.
7:00 EST: This bill creates mandatory spending in perpetuity. Talks about the debt growing and jobs being lost. Reid said this bill will be deficit neutral. But the real cost is hidden by implementing taxes first and spending later. When you extend it on out, you won't continue to cover those cost. So, disaster.
What would constitute fraud in the accounting world is being voted on. Medicare is going to go broke, and we're going to take billions from Medicare. If Washington accounting had to come under the same laws as private business, the administration would be in jail.
Now talking about the American people. Majority of Americans believe their costs will go up. The American public isn't fooled. David Broder, the dean of Washington's journalists, said a recent survey said less than 1/5th believe that health reform will be deficit neutral, and a majority oppose the legislation. Broder said it was a "budget-buster."
The group of six couldn't come to any conclusions because the topic is so big. It's a thousand billion dollars. A billion is a thousand million.
6:50 EST: Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) is discussing jobs and how health care represents a "massive government intrusion" into health care. Government will determine whether your health care costs too much. What services you should receive. Now he's bringing up the mammogram recommendations.
Saying this bill gets it wrong. Doesn't fix what's broken and leave what works. Senator Reid is trying to jam through a strictly partisan bill. Will increase the deficit and harm our jobs. No serious economist would say this bill creates jobs or helps our economy. Health care spending will increase, will not improve quality, or change the delivery system.
"The voices of August are still echoing, and coming from a vast majority."
Says there is a job-killing tax on business because they will have to provide health insurance. The health reform bill will threaten your jobs. Heritage foundation says this new job-killing tax will put 5 million at risk of losing their jobs.
The bill will threaten our nation's jobs and economic growth, and increase our debt and deficit.
I'll be doing a little bit of liveblogging the Senate health care debate today leading up to the cloture vote at around 8 pm EST.
I'll be keeping up with the debate in the Senate (on C-SPAN 2), as well as trying to explain the Senate procedure and answer questions folks might have.
And with that, here we go…