Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just unveiled his much discussed amendment (called a manager’s amendment), which many believe is the President’s last chance to secure significant health care reform before next year’s mid-term elections. Fittingly, since no one has seen the bill, the Senate clerk is now reading the bill, which could take upwards of eight hours.
During that time, everyone will be trying to understand what is included in the bill. That includes understanding the key provisions that may have been inserted to win the support of Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), who appeared to be the lone holdout within the Democratic caucus. Heritage analysts are busy trying to understand the details of the 383-page amendment, though their general observations, public option and Medicare buy-in aside, remain.
The question for many casual Senate watchers is, now what? Senator Reid has narrow window of opportunity to pass this version of Obamacare out of the Senate before Christmas. In fact, most insiders suggest that a late-night Christmas Eve vote on passage is likely. There will be several key votes along the way; the first could be at 1AM Monday morning, when Washington will still be digging out from what could be a record snowfall. At that point, Senator Reid will need to ensure all 58 Democrats and 2 Independents support his legislation, as 60 votes will be needed to end debate.
For those counting the hours, it would set up the most crucial vote of the entire health care debate less than 40 hours after Senators and the American people first saw the new bill. Remember back in October, Senators Blanch Lincoln (D-AR), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark L. Pryor (D-AR) and Jim Webb (D-VA) wrote a letter to Senator Reid requesting the bill and official score from the Congressional Budget Office would be available for at least 72 hours. For those snowed in along the East Coast, sit back and enjoy the clerk’s reading of the bill. It’s going to be a long day.
UPDATE: Various news outlets are reporting that Senator Nelson (D-NE) now supports the language and will vote to support the legislation.