Health care bill clears first Senate hurdle 60-39

(AP) - Sweeping health care legislation has clearedits first hurdle in the U.S. Senate on a party-line vote.

The 60-39 vote clears the way for a historic debate afterThursday's Thanksgiving holiday on the legislation. The measure isdesigned to extend coverage to an estimated 31 million Americanswho lack it and crack down on insurance industry practices thatdeny benefits.

Senate Democrats on Sunday sparred with each other over how to fix the nation's troubled health care system, the moderates threatening to scuttle legislation if their demands weren't met and more liberal members warning their party leaders not to bend.

The dispute among Democrats foretells of a rowdy floor debate next month on legislation that would extend health care coverage to roughly 31 million Americans. Republicans have already made clear they aren't supporting the bill.

Final passage is in jeopardy, even after the chamber's historic vote Saturday night to begin debate.

"I don't want a big-government, Washington-run operation that would undermine the ... private insurance that 200 million Americans now have," said Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Nebraska Democrat.

Nelson and three other moderates - Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman - agreed to open debate despite expressing reservations on the measure. Each of them has warned that they might not support the final bill.

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