The move upset some anti-abortion lawmakers such as Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who this week told ABC News he will not vote for the final health care bill if it did not include his abortion language, which is in the House health care bill. He also said there was enough momentum on the Senate front with his views.
"A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage," Stupak said in a written statement today. "Further, the segregation of funds to pay for abortion is another departure from current policy prohibiting federal subsidy of abortion coverage. While I and many other pro-life Democratic House members wish to see health care coverage for all Americans, the proposed Senate language is unacceptable."
Senate Democratic leaders also took out one of the most controversial aspects of the health care bill, the option of a government-run insurance plan and replaced it with a "multi-states" plan that would be managed by the Office of Personnel Management.
Nelson and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut, had emerged as leading opponents of a public option plan and a subequent proposal to expand Medicare to Americans between the ages of 55 and 64.
Democratic leaders needed both Nelson and Lieberman's support to avoid a Republican filibuster of their health care bill, even though liberal Democrats complained that they were conceding too much to a few lawmakers.
Even as Nelson expressed support for the Senate health care bill, he shot a warning signal to his party members, saying he reserves the right to oppose the legislation in the future if material changes are made after Senate passes the bill and it goes to conference with the House, where the two chambers would attempt to merge their differences.
To appease the liberal wing of the party that wanted a public option, Democratic leaders included a medical loss ratio provision that would demand greater accountability from insurance companies and create more competition. Democratic aides say insurance companies will be forced to spend more money on care and less money padding their bottom line.
In his statements today, Obama specifically mentioned those changes.
"Between the time the bill passes and the time when the insurance exchange gets up and running, there will now be penalties for insurance companies that arbitrarily jack up rates on consumers," the president said. "A recent amendment has made these protections even stronger. Insurance companies will now be prohibited from denying coverage to children immediately after this bill passes."
Reid vowed to get the Senate health care bill passed by Christmas, despite Republican attempts to delay debate.
The GOP's Senate leadership today assailed the legislation, as expected.
"This bill is a legislative train wreck of historic proportions," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "They [Democrats] are so eager to claim a victory, they'll simply do anything to jam it through in the next few days."
Even as Reid expressed confidence that he had the 60 votes needed for the health care bill to pass the Senate, Republicans said they will not give in and stay until Christmas day, if it came down to it.