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Kerry: Health Care Vote Historic, A Privilege04:21
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Victoria Reggie Kennedy, center, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy is with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left,  and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,  following a 60-40 cloture vote in Washington, Monday, Dec. 21, which was the first step in passing Thursday's health care bill. (AP)
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, center, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy is with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., following a 60-40 cloture vote in Washington, Monday, Dec. 21, which was the first step in passing Thursday's health care bill. (AP)

The Senate approved its health care overhaul bill along strict party lines Thursday morning. The vote was 60 to 39.

In a post-vote interview with WBUR's Bob Oakes, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry explained the significance of the vote for the American people.

"Well this is one of the most important votes that I've had the privilege of casting in the 25 years that I've been there," said Kerry.  "It is a historic vote that will, over time, not immediately, change the delivery of health care in America for the better."

Dismissing opposition "myths", Kerry advocated what he labeled as "dramatic changes" outlined in the overhaul.  He cited expanded coverage to an estimated 31 million Americans and regulations that will prohibit insurance companies from removing customers from extant plans or denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, among other reforms.

"America will be healthier, our health care delivery system will be more efficient, and people's lives will be saved," said Kerry.

When asked about potential difficulties arising from merging the Senate's bill with the version previously passed in the House of Representatives, Kerry expressed confidence, indicating that there is relative unanimity with regard to "90 or even 95 percent" of the two bills.

Touching specifically on a potential abortion divide between the versions, Kerry said, "I think there's room to compromise there."

During the vote, Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy who called health care reform the cause of his life, looked on.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said the vote brings the nation one step closer to Kennedy's dream, and Kerry - now the Commonwealth's senior senator - echoed Reid's sentiments.

"Ted would be jubilant, obviously.  This is something he worked for throughout his lifetime.  For 40 years, he was fighting for this.  It's enormously gratifying, but bittersweet - we wish Ted were here.  But he is here in spirit."

Kerry, who on Tuesday said that national health care reform won't undo Massachusetts reform efforts, concluded by tying his vote to Kennedy.

"I certainly tried my best to convey to him that we were going to get this done before he passed away, and now we have.  It's just very, very gratifying."


This program aired on December 24, 2009.

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital manager. He occasionally reports about economic and transportation policy, social issues and politics.

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