Health Care: The Final Push

By Gorman Gorman

Dec 17, 2009 3:51pm

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reports: Democrats are in an all-out push to pass health care reform that will likely keep the Senate in session non-stop — 24-hours-a-day — between now and Christmas eve.

They are doing this because they think they can pass the bill now and don't want to risk losing momentum when Congress goes on recess.   The only remaining hold-out is Ben Nelson, however, and if he does not come on board, not even Senate all-nighters can get it done.

To pass the bill, it will take a total of four separate votes, each requiring 30 hours of debate.  And first the Senate must pass the Defense appropriations bill (which requires two votes).

Here's the current plan:

-    Votes on Defense appropriations at 1am tonight and 7am Saturday. 

-    Saturday morning, Reid introduces his compromise deal – aka "manager's amendment" – and moves to cut off debate.

-    Republicans likely force a reading of the Reid amendment.  I'm told it's 500 pages. 

-     The first health care vote – to cut-off debate on Reid's amendment  – happens as early as  Sunday night after 1am.

-     The 2nd health care vote would come 30 hours later or sometime after 7am Tuesday.

-    30 hours after that, the 3rd vote, possibly by Wednesday afternoon, December 23.

-    Republicans could insist on another 30 hours of debate, which would lead to final vote Christmas eve.

Despite this mad dash to pass a bill by Christmas, Harry Reid still hasn't released his compromise bill or an estimate of how much it will cost.  I am told we are likely not to see either until tomorrow.

And remember … this bill still needs to be reconciled with the one passed in the House … and that reconciled bill then needs to be passed again in both chambers.   A final bill by the New Year?  Don't hold your breath.

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