The senator that didn't show up for the vote was Jim Bunning (R-Ky). The Louisville Courier-Journal says this "caps a year of unusual incidents involving the senator." Bunning has missed 21 votes this month, one more than the ailing 92-year-old Robert Byrd.
If you slept through your high school civics class, we now have two versions of a health care bill; one from the House and one from the Senate, and there are significant differences that will have to be reconciled. The House bill is better, but the final bill will look more like the Senate bill to make it through the 60-vote gauntlet again. The House is back in session on January 12; the Senate on January 19. President Obama would like to have a bill to sign before the State of the Union address, but final passage might slip on into February.
Paul Krugman weighs in...
If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.
And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.
Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it’s worth, the reform that’s being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton’s plan than to President Obama’s). This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it’s actually happening.
So progressives shouldn’t stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them — and for America.