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Christmas isn't cancelled

Mark Mardell | 22:06 UK time, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

capitol_xmas_ap226_300.jpgI felt a pang of fellow feeling when I saw the Washington Post headline this morning, "The Bill That Stole Christmas". At least I can get home from the office in about half an hour but if senators had been forced to stay until seven in the evening of Christmas Eve to vote on healthcare, many of them, and their staff, wouldn't be able to make it home for Christmas.

Then President Obama cancelled the start of his holiday in sympathy. It seemed one of those cases when politicians are forced to put style before substance by the triviality of the voters and the media: not going to Hawaii wouldn't have made a jot of difference, but the pictures would look bad.

Now the Senate vote has been moved to the much more practical, if not particularly civilised hour of 8am on Christmas Eve. This at least lets them flee the capital when the deed is done. It seems to me it is all grandstanding anyway: once they had the 60 votes the affair was over. As far as I can see, the only thing that could stop passage would be a senator being physically incapable of voting.

It is interesting that a left wing backlash is developing with the big nursing union attacking what they call "a flawed bill" which will make the "tyranny" of insurance companies worse, and a left wing blog firedoglake mounting a fierce campaign. So how hard will House Democrats fight for their, slightly more radical, version of the bill in the New Year?

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