“We’re going to finish this healthcare bill before we leave here for the holidays,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday.Got that? Remember this is to pass a program that would remake one-sixth of our economy and yet Reid hasn't produced the Manager's Amendment that contains the meat of the eventual proposal. Yet, he wants to rush through a vote on a bill that none but his favored few have actually read. And we haven't yet seen a CBO report on what it will cost.
To meet that goal, Reid has tentatively scheduled a 1 a.m. vote Friday to cut off debate on the defense-spending bill, which also includes an extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies for people who have lost their jobs. If the Senate votes to quash the filibuster, lawmakers would proceed to final passage after 30 hours of post-cloture debate, or at 7 a.m. Saturday, according to Democratic sources briefed on the plan.
For the Senate to pass healthcare reform by Christmas, as Reid has pledged, the Senate leader would then have to file take a series of necessary procedural steps that would force votes all week at odd hours.
Reid must file motions to end debate on: the manager’s amendment, which includes all the final-hour changes made to win the support of 60 Democratic senators; the 2,074-page healthcare bill, which lawmakers have been debating on the floor; and on the underlying legislative vehicle, the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act.
Republicans may force Senate clerks to read the entire manager’s amendment but that will not disrupt the schedule. That’s because reading the amendment, which will be shorter than the 2,074-page healthcare bill, is not expected to take more than eight hours.
Reid could offer the manager’s amendment on Saturday morning and keep to his schedule as long as he files cloture sometime before midnight.
Cloture motions need one day to ripen, so the earliest the Senate could vote to end debate on Reid’s manager’s amendment would be 1 a.m. Monday.
Democrats would have to allow 30 hours of post-cloture debate to elapse before voting to approve the manager’s amendment. A second cloture vote to end debate on the initial healthcare bill would happen as early as 7 a.m. Tuesday, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate before a vote to adopt that amendment to the underlying bill.
Democrats would then have to repeat the same process on the third motion to end debate on the underlying bill, setting up a cloture vote at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
At any time, the chamber could move up a final vote if every senator agrees. But if a single senator objects, the earliest a final vote on the final package could take place would be 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
And what is the rush? They have to come back after Christmas anyway to vote on raising the debt ceiling. The bill wouldn't be passed this year anyway because we still have to hear from the House. We don't know yet if Nancy Pelosi will force her members to vote on the Senate bill as it is so that they don't have to face a conference clash between the differences in the two house's bills. But whatever they do will not occur until January. This is reminiscent of how they had to rush through the stimulus bill over a weekend when Obama wasn't going to come back until a few days later to sign the thing. But people had to be denied the time to read the $787 billion bill so that it could be rushed through by another artificial deadline.
Sadly, the weather is just not cooperating with Harry Reid's schedule. Washington, D.C. is scheduled to have a major snowstorm over the next few days. It will be the type of weather when the federal government asks non-crucial workers to stay home. Apparently, rushing through a bill that no one will have had a chance to read and when there is time to debate and vote on the bill next month will be in Reid's mind qualify as crucial work. All to fit a political deadline because the Democrats realize that every additional moment that this debate is out there, the less popular their proposals become. Their motto seems to be, vote now before the people realize what we're doing.