Included in this 1 a.m. vote was Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd from West Virginia. He's 92. He's been in and out of hospitals, and was home yesterday because of his weak health. But he was going to attend the procedural vote. He would be the 60th vote needed. It would have been better for his health had the vote taken place at a more respectable time, and not in the middle of a snowstorm. But apparently the Republicans resisted that, so he needed to trudge out of the house, in his wheelchair, in the middle of the night instead.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) apparently wished for his demise earlier in the day. At 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Coburn said, "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight. That's what they ought to pray." Later, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called him out on it. "This statement goes too far," Durbin said. "We are becoming more coarse and divided here ... When it reaches a point where we're praying, asking people to pray, that senators wouldn't be able to answer the roll call, I think it has crossed the line... This statement troubles me, and I’m trying to reach him [Coburn] come back to the floor and explain exactly what he meant about a senator being unable to make the vote tonight."
In spite of Tom Coburn's apparent call for prayer for his demise, Sen. Byrd was there at 1 a.m. - like clockwork:
Coburn was wearing blue jeans, an argyle sweater and a tweed jacket with elbow patches when he walked back into the chamber a few minutes before 1 a.m. He watched without expression when Byrd was wheeled in, dabbing his eyes and nose with tissues, his complexion pale. When his name was called, Byrd shot his right index finger into the air as he shouted "aye," then pumped his left fist in defiance.
Here's an article on what happened.
And here is some of the video:
Bottom line - and Tom Coburn's prayers notwithstanding - the 60 votes have gathered. For as frustrating as it's been - and as frustrating as the compromises are - this is a great, great thing, that this bill has moved.