Reid Takes First Step in Health Care Debate

Posted November 10, 2009 at 8:52pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) got the ball rolling on the health care reform debate Tuesday night by starting the process for putting the House-passed bill on the official Senate calendar.Once on the calendar, a motion to proceed — a procedural tool used to start debate — to the bill can be called the next legislative day. Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Reid started the process Tuesday night so he could file a motion to proceed as soon as Nov. 17.“This will put us in a position to go to the bill at some point next week,— Manley said.Reid said Tuesday that he hopes to begin the health care debate next week. Republicans are expected to mount a filibuster of the motion to proceed, which if successful would prevent the bill from being debated on the Senate floor. Reid needs 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, and he has been working to secure the votes of all 60 members of the Democratic Conference, given unanimous Republican opposition.Despite the formal calendar process, the timing of the Senate’s health care debate is still in doubt. Reid has given his Members assurances that he would not bring a measure to the floor without a formal cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO score is expected by the end of this week, but once Reid sees the estimate, he may seek tweaks to the bill that could delay the final score, aides acknowledged.The timeline for putting the bill on the calendar is only three legislative days, but the Senate is not in session for the rest of this week.Putting the House bill on the calendar is standard procedure, particularly for measures that include revenue provisions as the health care bill does. If Reid is able to overcome a filibuster on the motion to proceed to the bill, he will likely offer the Senate bill as a substitute amendment.