WASHINGTON -- It's a "Christmas present for all America" or "a recipe for disaster" that will bring "devastation" to health care as we know it.
Depending on their political persuasion, members of Georgia's delegation to Congress say they either hate the health overhaul bill that the U.S. Senate passed 60-39 early Thursday morning or see it as a monumentally positive step forward for the country.
"This is a Christmas present for all America," Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta said in a statement after the vote. "I believe one day the American people will look back on this vote and they will be grateful that the members of the House and Senate had the courage to do all they could to make health care more fair and more accessible to all of our citizens."
Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson characterized it as something else: a "recipe for disaster."
“The unintended consequences of this legislation are disastrous," he said in a statement. "This bill is bad for Georgia, bad for families, bad for our seniors and bad for the American economy.”
Like almost every other Republican, Isakson and fellow Georgian U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted against the bill. Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky was the only senator who didn't cast a vote.
"The process used to get this bill to 60 votes was unlike anything I had [ever] seen before," Chambliss said. "Deals were cut behind closed doors for individual senators and their states at the expense of taxpayers across the nation -- and that’s just not right."
U.S. Rep. Tom Price, the conservative Republican from Roswell, characterized passage of the Senate bill as another step toward "government takeover" of the nation's health care system.
“The Senate’s actions ... are monumental only in their devastation to the American health care system," Price said. "The history made today will be the story of a government bent on its encroachment upon liberty, individual freedom and the ability of Americans to make independent medical decisions."
If nothing else, what's clear about Thursday's vote in the Senate is that it marks the end of one round of political fighting and the start of the next round.
When lawmakers return to Washington in January, they will begin the tough process of trying to reconcile the vastly different House and Senate health bills.
Isakson may have set the tone.
"The process is not over by a long shot," Isakson said, "and I will continue to fight against it every single day."
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