Reid Files Cloture Motions To Pave Way For Final Health Bill Vote Before Christmas
CongressDaily: "Senate Majority Leader [Harry] Reid plans to file a package of cloture motions next week that would allow a final vote on healthcare legislation before the Senate goes home for Christmas, a leadership aide said today." He plans to offer "simultaneous cloture motions" for the overall bill, for a substitute amendment and for a manager's amendment containing "key compromises." The plan "came to light as senators from both parties wondered why leaders have not scheduled a vote on an amendment to allow reimportation of cheaper prescription drugs, which appears to have enough votes to pass" (Friedman and Edney, 12/10).
Meanwhile, on the House side, CQ Politics reports "Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she wouldn't rule out keeping the House in session for part of Christmas week, if that could lead to final action this year on a health care overhaul." In the Senate, Democratic leaders are waiting for an updated Congressional Budget Office analysis on the latest proposals -- a report not expected before next week.
"Asked at a news conference if Congress could complete work on the health package in the next week to 10 days, Pelosi said there is a big difference between those two time frames. If the Senate passes its bill by the end of next week, she said House and Senate conferees could meet over the weekend of Dec. 19-20 to try to resolve differences between the two versions." She also said that if final votes slip into 2010, Democrats will still act quickly to finish work on the measure. In addition, she "brushed aside suggestions that the House might accept whatever the Senate passes, rather than go to conference - although she said that about 75 percent of the two bills is the same" (12/10).
Politico: Pelosi told reporters, "'We would like to see a full conference' negotiation with the Senate ... meaning she wants to appoint House negotiators to hash out a final version with their Senate counterparts before scheduling a vote on the combined package." These negotiations can sometimes drag on for weeks and months, "but the speaker suggested Thursday that negotiators could wrap up these health care talks over a single weekend if the Senate finishes its bill by the end of next week." Politico terms this "an an incredibly abbreviated timeline based on the amount of energy both chambers have invested in their versions of the legislation. ... But it may suggest the speaker is willing to accept much of what the Senate produces" (O'Connor, 12/10).
The Wall Street Journal: "Pelosi said that she still held out hope that Congress could complete health-care legislation before lawmakers leave town for the Christmas recess." But that likelihood "entirely depends on when the Senate can reach agreement on final passage of its version of the bill." Pelosi also seemed "to endorse part of a Senate alternative to a public health-insurance plan that would allow people between 55 and 64 to buy into the Medicare program" (Boles, 12/10).
Reuters: Pelosi "voiced support for an important provision of a tentative Senate Democratic compromise that scales back a public insurance option that she supports." Although she wants more details on the specifics of the Senate's overall accord, she said "one element -- expanding Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly -- had merit" (Ferraro, 12/10).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.