A quick response to Peter's post below: The Democratic Party has always been a sectional party of different guises--Southern pro-slavery, post-reconstruction, New Deal coalition, and Great Society. Pundits who accuse the Republicans of growing from Southern racist votes need to keep their eyes on the ball: particular interests. The New Deal-Great Society coalitions were cobbled together to serve the needs of their disparate, factious partners, through an emerging administrative state. Obamacare with its messy procedure and laughable compromises simply highlights the Democratic Party approach to legislation. You can denounce it as "Chicago politics" or socialism, but of course the senators are simply out to get what they can for their constituencies. For the place of principle here, note the party's intellect, Obama himself. One should reread Charles Kesler's study of Obama to see what might be coming in the New Year.
Republican leader McConnell may have played the best hand he could: of course with 60 votes something would pass. The point was to make the result so vile that the House might reject the compromised Senate bill. Surely a conference would destroy the compromises.
Are the Republicans any more principled, less sectional or factious? That's the subject of something longer than a blog post.