Health care legislation passes key Senate test

WASHINGTON (AP) - Landmark health care legislation backed by President Barack Obama has passed its sternest Senate test, overcoming Republican delaying tactics on a 60-40 vote that all but assures its passage by Christmas.

The bill would extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who now lack it, while banning insurance company practices such as denial of benefits on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

Both Mississippi Senators, Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, voted against ending debate on the latest version of the Senate Democrats' health care bill.

"This measure is being pushed forward despite the opposition of a majority of Americans, most governors and other state officials, consumer groups, business leaders and health care professionals," Sen. Cochran said.  "It is my hope that in the New Year the Senate and House negotiators will step back from these two flawed bills to fashion a more measured reform plan that can improve our health care system, without all the negative ramifications we now face in the Senate and House bills."

"Higher taxes, more spending, and cuts to Medicare are not the reforms Americans want," Sen. Wicker said. "This bill is a colossal mistake.  It should be scrapped so that we can start over and get this right."

If Democrats retain the support of 60 senators in the remaining two procedural votes expected in the coming days, a vote on final passage of the bill could occur on Christmas Eve.