Senate to Cast Crucial Vote on Health Care Reform This Weekend

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Only days after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled the health care reform bill that he and other Senate leaders have been crafting in secret for weeks, the full Senate will be asked on Saturday to vote on whether or not the bill should be brought to the floor for debate.

Saturday’s vote will be the first key procedural hurdle for the Senate plan and requires 60 votes from the 100-member body. As of today, Sen. Reid is unsure that he has the votes needed to move the bill into the next phase. 

If the Senate agrees to take up the bill, debate would begin on Nov. 30 and would last at least three weeks. If a bill does pass, any differences between the Senate and the House version passed on Nov. 7 would then have to be reconciled before a final bill can be voted on again in both houses and sent to Obama to sign. This makes Pres. Obama’s end-of-the-year deadline unlikely.

Sen. Reid’s 2,074 page bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says will cost more than $850 billion over the next 10 years, is a divisive piece of legislation that has enemies on both sides of the aisle.  It contains a highly unpopular public plan as well as abortion funding and other controversial provisions such as mandating that all Americans buy health insurance.

Sen. Reid will need every Democratic to vote for the bill on Saturday because he needs a majority and the Republican caucus has already said that they will vote against the bill on Saturday.

However, he doesn’t yet have the numbers he needs. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE.) is concerned about provisions in the bill that allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) are concerned about the public option and the bill’s cost. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) is absent due to health problems and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is currently tending to an ailing mother.

When asked about his chances for success, the Senator said: “We’ll find out when the votes are taken.”

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