KTVA (CBS-11): Alaska Senators split on healthcare vote

The Healthcare Reform Bill is one step closer to a final vote. Saturday, the Senate voted to move the bill to the floor for open debate. But Republicans allege Democrats used backdoor techniques to get the bill to the floor.

"There were a lot of gimmicks that we saw tonight," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. "Not the least of which was the fact that we didn't vote to proceed for the bill that we will be taking up after Thanksgiving."

Murkowski voted against moving the bill to the floor today because she says the bill they actually voted on had nothing to do with healthcare and was a shell bill.

"What the leader did was he said we are going to proceed to this other bill and then once we get the support to proceed we will basically swap it out for the healthcare bill," Murkowski said.

In the end the lawmakers toed their respective party lines. Sen. Mark Begich voted for it and says the Senate's rules for debating bills are pretty confusing.

"This was a procedural move to get us to the debate," he said. "And if you're watching from the outside it's very complex and seems to be kind of ridiculous in a lot of ways."

But Begich said this is better for people watching at home because it won't be debated behind closed doors anymore.

"Don't get caught up in all the procedural votes," he said. "What's most important is what are we debating: The substance of improving the lives of individuals."

Murkowski says the bill is moving too fast to appease the president who wants everything finished by the end of the year.

"It's just too important to rush through," she said. "And unfortunately I think that has been the tactic all throughout."

Murkowski says the bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid constructed includes things that are brand new since they were debated in committees.

Begich said he still has questions about the bill as it stands and will propose several amendments before the whole process is finished.

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Source: By Todd Walker. Originally broadcast by KTVA on November 21, 2009