Health care bill passes first Senate hurdle - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Health care bill passes first Senate hurdle

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Sweeping health care legislation has cleared its first hurdle in the Senate on a party-line vote.     

The 60-39 vote clears the way for a historic debate after Thanksgiving on the legislation. The measure is designed to extend coverage to an estimated 31 million Americans who lack it and crackdown on insurance industry practices that deny benefits.     

The vote came in a rare Saturday session in the Senate.     

Democrats posted 60 votes in a Senate showdown, precisely the number needed to overcome Republican delaying tactics.     

The vote was a major victory for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House in a year-end drive to enact the most sweeping changes to the nation's health care system in a half-century or more.         

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