Senate Health Reform Vote By Christmas In Doubt As Sides Draw Lines

Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan to pass the Senate health care reform bill by Christmas looked increasingly in doubt Wednesday, as Republicans launched an offensive to stall the legislation and Democrats had yet to strike a 60-vote compromise. Senators privately considered one scenario Wednesday that would have them casting a final vote at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve. … Away from the floor, Reid continued wrangling with the Congressional Budget Office over a cost estimate, which Democrats had initially hoped to receive by Monday." Some Democrats themselves have remained uncommitted, Politico reports, over abortion and other issues (Budoff Brown, 12/16).

Roll Call: "Assuming they can rally all 60 members of the Democratic Conference, Democratic leaders could start the clock Saturday on the time-consuming cloture motion needed to kill a filibuster of the health care reform bill." Even the "most optimistic" scenarios would take at least six days for Democrats "to overcome the procedural roadblocks Republicans are expected to raise." The Senate is expected to vote on a Defense spending bill Friday before taking back up the health reform debate (Pierce and Drucker, 12/16).

In a separate story, Roll Call reports that it "appeared Wednesday that Democrats were prepared to fully engage in the game of chicken with Republicans, with some aides saying they were primed to vote on Christmas Day or to come back the week between the holiday and New Year's Day to finish the bill." The threat of Republicans forcing a reading of the entire bill remains as does a reading of what is likely to be a 300- to 500-page manager's amendment (Pierce and Drucker, 12/17).

The Wall Street Journal reports that Reid remains "a vote short of the 60 votes needed to ensure passage" of the reform bill, however. That vote is from Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who has concerns over abortion as well as proposed tax increases and cuts in Medicare payments to health providers. "He is demanding the bill's limits on insurance coverage for abortion be further tightened. … The Senate bill, at least for now, would impose limits on coverage but still allow women who get government subsidies to enroll in a plan that covers abortion" (Hitt, 12/17).

CongressDaily reports that Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., has said he "is undecided and waiting for (the) CBO to score a provision to allow the federal government to negotiate rates with private insurers for a national plan" (Edney and Friedman, 12/17).

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