"This [plan] will affect consumers, employers, providers in many ways, and for the better, to provide quality health care," said Sen. Chris Dodd, a senior member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The proposed bill would require everyone to have health insurance; require businesses to provide insurance for employees; would provide government subsidies for those who can't afford health insurance -- including people making up to $110,000 a year; and would create a government-run health insurance program -- often referred to as a "public plan" or "public option."
The battle over health care is already turning into a partisan brawl. Republicans decry the idea of a government-run health insurance program.
"Americans don't want government-run insurance companies any more than they want government-run car companies," said Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican member of the Finance Committee.
And Republicans said they are outraged that Democrats drafted the plan with little input from them.
"Apparently, the Kennedy bill has not been produced for the minority on the committee," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader. "Good grief. We need to know what's in the bill in order to go forward."
Kennedy's absence in Washington has complicated Democratic efforts, because he is the party's guiding force on health issues.
While Kennedy and his staff have been deeply involved in crafting the health care plan, the senator himself is home in Massachusetts being treated for brain cancer.
There has been slightly more bipartisanship on the Senate Finance Committee, which is drafting its own version, but it's quickly losing sheen.
When President Obama used his weekly address to push Congress to act quickly, ranking Republican leader Sen. Chuck Grassley lashed out via Twitter, slamming the president for bullying Congress and "sightseeing in Paris."