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Originally published Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 2:11 AM

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Turbulence ahead: Senate opens health care debate

The 60 votes aren't there any more.

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON —

The 60 votes aren't there any more.

With the Senate set to begin debate Monday on health care overhaul, the all-hands-on-deck Democratic coalition that allowed the bill to advance is fracturing.

Some Democratic senators say they'll jump ship without tighter restrictions on abortion coverage. Others say they'll go unless a government plan to compete with private insurance companies gets tossed. Such concessions would enrage liberals, the heart and soul of the party.

There's no clear course for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to steer legislation through Congress to President Barack Obama. You can't make history unless you reach 60 votes, and don't count on Republicans helping him.

But Reid is determined to avoid being remembered as another Democrat who tried and failed to make health care access for the middle class a part of America's social safety net.

"Generation after generation has called on us to fix this broken system," he said at a recent Capitol Hill rally. "We're now closer than ever to getting it done."

His bill includes $848 billion over 10 years to gradually expand coverage to most of those now uninsured. It would ban onerous insurance industry practices such as denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of someone's poor health.

Most people covered by big employers would gain more protections without major changes. One exception would be those with high-cost insurance plans, whose premiums could rise as a result of a tax on insurers issue the coverage.

The public is ambivalent about the Democrats' legislation. While 58 percent want elected officials to tackle health care now, about half of those supporters say they don't like what they're hearing about the plans, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

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On the Net:

Comparing the House and Senate bills: http://tinyurl.com/yeshhgv

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