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Deal Reached to Allow Health Care Vote at 8 a.m. Christmas Eve

Senate Republicans have agreed to end their filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care reform bill early Christmas Eve morning, allowing for a vote on the package at 8 a.m.

Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the agreement Tuesday afternoon. The Senate will also vote on a two-month extension of the federal debt limit on Christmas Eve morning before adjourning for the year.

McConnell presented the deal to his Conference during the GOP’s weekly luncheon Tuesday. Although many Members had hoped to force the chamber to remain in session until Thursday night, with an ice storm threatening to disrupt travel to the Midwest, Republicans ultimately agreed to end the debate earlier than planned.

But beyond practical concerns, Republicans said the agreement allowed them to use what remaining “leverage” they had from their ongoing filibuster of the Christmas bill to help set the stage for next year’s political battles, particularly on the national debt.

“Senate Republicans have long since committed to being here on Christmas Eve and that will happen. We’re not concerned with accommodating Christmas schedules, we’re concerned with a deeply flawed health care bill and runaway national debt. If we can lock in a high-profile debate on debt and still hold health care until the bitter end, we’ve done everything we can to stop these reckless policies from going forward,” a senior GOP aide said.

As part of the deal, Republicans will be able to offer on Jan. 20 a series of amendments to a long-term extension of the debt limit — a rescissions package authored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a set of spending caps proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) sunsetting the Troubled Asset Relief Program, an amendment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and a fiscal task force amendment by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Reid will also offer a pay-as-you-go budgeting amendment.

With a focus on economic issues and climate change, all of the GOP’s amendments play into the looming political battles for 2010.

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