Long, bitter debate ahead for health care bill
Dec 1, 3:18 AM (ET)
By ERICA WERNER
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats called it a historic opportunity. Republicans called it a sham.
Long-awaited debate over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul kicked off in the Senate with lawmakers trading bitter partisan words over the measure to remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
The legislative struggle is expected to last for weeks in a test that pits GOP senators determined not to give ground
against Senate Democrats determined to deliver on Obama's signature issue.
The 10-year, nearly $1 trillion legislation
includes a first-time requirement for most Americans to carry insurance
, greatly expands the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for the poor, and would require insurers to cover any paying customer regardless of their medical history or condition.
On Monday each side offered the first of what are likely to be dozens of amendments
, with the measures seemingly designed as much to court a skeptical public as to reshape Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's 2,074-page bill.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., attacked the legislation as a "monstrosity" that employs "Bernie Madoff accounting, Enron accounting"
as he offered the first GOP amendment. McCain's amendment would strip out more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts to home health providers, hospitals, hospices and others - a pitch to seniors, who polls show have deep concerns about the legislation.