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With Kennedy’s Arrival: Medicare Bill Is on Its Way to the White House

What a difference a week’s vacation (and an extra Democrat) can make. Late last month, the Senate failed by one vote to reach the 60 required to take up a bill preventing a 10.6 percent cut to Medicare doctors. On Wednesday, the same chamber passed the same procedural step by a whopping 69 to 30 margin. The difference, it would seem, was not merely the heavy lobbying from powerful doctors’ groups, nor the additional pressure from the wave of House Republicans that bucked the party to support the measure.

Rather, the difference was Ted Kennedy, the nine-term Massachusetts senator, who, suffering from brain cancer and in the midst of chemotherapy, surprised his upper chamber colleagues by showing up for the vote. (He’d missed the last one due to the illness.)

Recognizing that the bill would pass, a number of Republicans who had voted against the measure last month switched allegiances and supported the legislation this time around. For the record, they are: Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker; Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson; Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison; and Sens. Mel Martinez (Fla.); Arlen Specter (Penn.) and John Warner (Va.).

Those 69 "yeahs," by the way, mean the bill not only passes the Senate, but it’s veto-proof. Didn’t see that one coming.

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