Lincoln and Mary Landrieu, the 59th vote, tried to insist that this was merely a referendum for beginning debate. Because the bill can be changed after cloture is invoked, they claimed that they weren't actually voting for the bill. Here's Landrieu:
I've decided that there are enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done.In other words, Landrieu voted for cloture on the bill because of the bill's potential. But she's wrong. The ball has dropped. No matter what is cooked up after the sham "official debate" begins (after cloture is invoked) the basic framework of Obamacare is not waiting to be debated. Insurers are now going to be more rigorously regulated than ever before. "Exchange" marketplaces will be installed with a very poor likelihood for success. And the public option will be in the bill some way, some how — though exactly how is yet to be determined.
Other issues will be left for future, crucial 60-vote tests, like abortion coverage, business-based health insurance, and how much (read, not if, but how much) of a percentage Americans will see their taxes increased by this bill. But the most controversial options, at this point, have received the blessing of our Senate Members.
Senators will break for recess, and then the sham "debate" session begins. The House bill that was already passed requires medium and large businesses to cover their employees or pay a fine; the Senate bill requires them to simply pay a fee if the business doesn't cover them. Either way, businesses have to pay.
Some form of the public-option — perhaps a watered-down form — is a part of both bills, no matter what happens from here on out.
After the details are hammered out, Senators will begin to see the results of their decision trickle out on campaign polls. More importantly, Americans will begin to see the effects of federal officials wielding influence over their personal health.