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Senate Health Bill Faces Another Vote

Updated at 6:28 a.m. Eastern.

President Obama praised the advancement of a bill to overhaul the U.S. health care system as a victory for Americans ahead of another crucial vote Tuesday morning.

The president's comments came hours after he scored a major victory on his top domestic issue as Senate Democrats narrowly prevailed on a procedural vote very early Monday.

That vote all but ensures that the Senate will approve a bill extending health care to 30 million uninsured Americans before Friday's Christmas holiday. However, two more procedural votes were scheduled for Tuesday morning and again Wednesday. Final passage of the legislation was set for late Thursday, on Christmas Eve. Special Report: Health Care

CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports there's a mandatory waiting time between the votes, pushing the schedule right up to the evening of Christmas Eve. But essentially, it becomes an exercise in calling attendance - as long as all 60 senators in the Democratic voting block show up, and keep saying "aye".

Still, the final outcome for health reform remains unpredictable because the Senate measure must be reconciled with a starkly different and more liberal bill already passed by the House of Representatives. That is likely the most difficult step before Obama can sign the legislation into law.

Obama said Monday the Senate's health care bill will make a "tremendous difference for families, for seniors, for businesses and for the country as a whole."

More on Health Care:

Health Reform Bill Passes Key Senate Test
What's Next for the Health Care Bill?
Comparison of Senate, House Health Care Bills
Obama: Health Care Vote a "Big Victory"
Some Seek to Kill the 60-Vote Filibuster
Bob Corker: Health Bill Process Lacks Integrity
John McCain Evokes Bernie Madoff in Health Care Bill Critique
Washington Unplugged: Rep. Stupak Opposes Senate Abortion Compromise

Senate Democratic leaders basked in the victory for the landmark legislation. The American Medical Association, which represents nearly 250,000 doctors, announced its endorsement after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made some last-minute changes to please the doctors. These included replacing a 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery procedures was replaced with a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services.

"America has the best health care in the world - if you can get it," the AMA's president-elect Dr. Cecil B. Wilson said at a press conference Monday with Reid and other leaders. "For far too many people access to care is out of reach because they lack insurance. This is not acceptable to physicians."

Reid has herded 58 Democrats and two independents into line through a combination of wheedling, cajoling, and dispensing special deals.

Tallying the Health Care Bill's Giveaways

The strategy has Republicans irate but Reid makes no apologies.

"I don't know if there's a senator that doesn't have something in this bill that was important to them, and if they don't have something in it important to them, then it doesn't speak well of them," Reid said Monday.

"Democrats weren't even defensive about these deals," reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews. "They said all of them related to the needs of needy people."

"Reelection is the motivator here," Andrews reports. "Republicans want this to be a national scandal with people concerned about special treatment. But senators run in one state and they're going home to say 'here's what I got you.'"

Democrats prevailed 60-40 over Republican opposition on the first test early Monday, with just enough votes to prevent Republicans from derailing the bill. Democrats will have to put up 60 votes again Tuesday morning for another procedural vote.

A final 60-vote hurdle awaits Wednesday, and final passage of the legislation - requiring a simple majority - is set for late Thursday, Christmas Eve, if Republicans take all the available time. As of Monday they said they would.

"I am willing to stay here. The flight that I have is Christmas morning, and I don't plan on changing that reservation," Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, told reporters after a meeting of Republican senators. "We potentially are getting ready to pass a bill that there's no question in my mind is going to lead to huge deficits down the road."

The 10-year, nearly $1 trillion Senate plan includes a new requirement for almost everyone to purchase insurance. Subsidies would be provided to help lower and middle-income people do so, and businesses would be encouraged to cover their employees through a combination of tax breaks and penalties.

Unpopular insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with existing health conditions would be banned. Uninsured or self-employed Americans would have a new way to buy health insurance, via marketplaces called exchanges where private insurers would sell health plans required to meet certain minimum standards.

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