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One Vote Down, Three to Go

In the wee hours of Monday morning, the Democrats won the first of four votes necessary to pass health care reform legislation.

The vote was procedural, over whether to end debate on Harry Reid's "manager's amendment." With all forty Republicans joining a filibuster, it took the votes of all sixty senators in the Democratic caucus to proceed.

The moment was not exceptionally dramatic, given that the last Democratic holdout, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, had declared his support on Saturday.

During the floor debate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a plea for "just one" of the bill's supporters to defect. His colleague Tom Coburn, in a particularly classy move, suggested that the public "ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote today."

But no Democrats broke ranks and all of them showed up--even the ailing Robert Byrd, whom an aide wheeled onto the floor just moments before the roll call.

The schedule calls for the next two votes to take place Tuesday at 7 a.m. and Wednesday at 1 p.m., setting up a final vote--on the bill itself--for Thursday at 7 p.m. That's Christmas Eve and it's always possible the Republicans, who are insisting upon 30 hours of debate before each vote, will change their minds in order to be home with their families. But nobody is making early travel plans.