Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 | 8:59 a.m.
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- Senate clears a final procedural hurdle to health care reform (12-23-09)
- Health coverage requirement raises constitutionality debate (12-23-09)
- Reid bobs and weaves to land health care deal (12-22-09)
- GOP to keep up its fight until the final deadline (12-22-09)
- Deal-making gets job done, Reid says (12-22-09)
- Obama welcomes ‘historic’ health care advance (12-21-09)
- Jim Gibbons attacks Harry Reid on health care bill (12-21-09)
- Health care bill clears tough Senate test (12-20-2009)
- Health care compromise gives sweet Medicaid deal to Nebraska (12-20-2009)
WASHINGTON — In the long health care debate of 2009, nothing is ever easy. Not even the final vote.
Tension filled the Senate on Thursday morning as senators, one by one, cast their votes on the historic health care reform legislation. The galleries were filled with onlookers.
As the roll call neared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s name, the Nevadan stood up at his desk, prepared to deliver his vote.
“Mr. Reid of Nevada,” the clerk called.
“No,” Reid said. Gasps filled the chamber.
“I mean, Aye,” Reid quickly said.
Reid buried his head in his arms on his desk. He looked up, hands upturned, and shrugged. He smiled in apology. He folded his hands in a triangle, elbows on his desk, and rested his head.
What just happened?
Was that a joke?
A slip-up, when you blurt out the thing you fear the most?
That was a very tired majority leader.
“I just wasn’t thinking,” Reid said later to the Las Vegas Sun. “I was just sitting there thinking about everything. Just thinking about what we’d been through.”
These have been long, hard weeks and months, crafting legislation that could win the 60 votes of his politically diverse Democratic caucus in the face of unified Republican opposition on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
Reid has not slept much.
The chamber erupted in laughter as soon as Reid quickly changed his vote. The senators, the gallery, even the opposition, the Republican leader, cracked up.
Reid joked about it later with reporters, saying he wanted to offer something in the spirit of bipartisanship.
He deadpanned another explanation later on.
“I thought it was time to create a little break of the tension,” he told the Sun.
But it did not seem intentional.
“Well, maybe it wasn’t,” Reid confided.