Democrats broke a Republican filibuster in the wee hours of the morning and inched their sweeping $871 billion health care package toward passage before Christmas.
All 60 members of the Democratic caucus -- liberals who wanted a public option voted for a bill without one, and moderates concerned about the cost -- voted to limit debate on compromise language introduced Saturday morning. The 40 Republicans opposed and assailed Democrats for crafting back-room deals that benefit a few senators.
"It's one of the great Bernie Madoff gimmicks that I've ever seen, that anybody's ever seen," McCain, R-Ariz., charged on "Good Morning America" today, adding that this was an "unsavory practice that the American people will reject resoundingly."
One of the biggest weaknesses of the bill, McCain said, is that tax increases and cuts in Medicare and other funding would kick in as soon as the bill is passed but the benefits won't begin to accrue until four years later.
"That's nutty stuff ... it's unacceptable," he said.
The strict timeline -- a series of early morning procedural votes though one of the worst snow storms in Washington, D.C., history -- was set by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass a bill before the Christmas holiday.
An agreement on the compromise to bring Sen. Ben Nelson, the final Democratic holdout, onboard with the legislation, was announced Saturday morning. But today's vote signaled that all Democrats will support the bill.
Nelson secured a special break for his state's contributions on Medicaid funding, protected some Nebraska insurers from a new tax in the bill and got Democratic leaders to agree on slightly tougher restrictions on how abortions could be offered in insurance plans under the bill.
McCain criticized Democrats for providing concessions to a few Democrats, such as Nelson, who had been skeptical of the bill, saying it would cost people in other states.
"This was behind closed doors," McCain said. "The Republicans were never brought in to the negotiations and this is what you get -- a split country -- where the American people are opposed to what we're doing and opposed to us."
As for whether the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had fought for health care overhaul much of his Senate career, would approve, McCain said his friend would not like the the partisan nature of the legislation.
"I think that Senator Kennedy would appreciate the outcome," he said. "I don't think he would appreciate it on a party-line vote. There has never been a major reform accomplished in the history of this country that wasn't bipartisan. ... He never engaged in this kind of unsavory process of offering people different deals, which in the end cost people from other states lots of money and puts burdens on them."
Some liberal Democrats are also unhappy, even though they voted with their caucus. Anti-war Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who earlier helped break a Republican filibuster of a troop funding bill he opposed in order to make room on the Senate schedule for health care reform, cast blame at the White House for not pushing hard enough to include a public health insurance option.