The Senate passed a legislative package that includes mental-health parity provisions while allotting more than $700 billion to the federal government to help stabilize the banking and lending industries. The House, which voted down a more streamlined version of the bill that contained only the Wall Street lifesaver, is expected to vote on the bill Friday.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has worked on shaping mental-health parity legislation for more than a decade, lauded the 74-25 vote while urging the House to pass the measure as well. There is renewed hope for millions of Americans facing mental illness, the ailing senator said in a written statement issued from Hyannis Port, Mass.
The vote capped what was by all accounts an unusual path even by Congress own Byzantine standards. Both legislative chambers had passed versions of the mental-health parity bill that were similar in content, though differed in how they would be paid. In a procedural move, Senate leaders on Tuesday said they would use the House-passed bill essentially as a shell to carry the much more publicized provisions to firm-up the U.S. financial markets.
The bill now goes to the House, where its passage is less certain. On Sept. 29, the House shocked many congressional leaders by rejecting down the so-called bailout bill. But by design, the Senate version includes a package of tax breaks favored by many Republican lawmakers. Democrats said they hope the add-ons would help sway about a dozen or more votes that would bolster chances of passage. -- by Matthew DoBias
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