Reid Confident but Won’t Yet Predict 60 Votes
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) confidently predicted Thursday that the Senate would eventually pass a health care reform measure, even as he refused to say whether he has the 60 votes necessary to bring the measure up for debate.At a press conference touting Wednesday night’s unveiling of the $848 billion measure, Reid said that he has spoken in recent days to centrist Maine GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and hopes to get some GOP votes for the bill but that he is prepared to move it based solely on the 60 votes in the Senate Democratic Conference.“We reach out to our Republican colleagues. We would like to work with them,— Reid said. “Everyone should understand we’re going to do a bill. We hope that we don’t have to do it with Democrats, but if we have to we will.—But Reid declined to say whether he has firm commitments from all 60 Members of his caucus to start debate on the measure. Sixty votes are needed to beat back a certain GOP-led filibuster.“We’ll find out when the votes are taken,— he said.He added that he plans to file a procedural motion to limit debate, or invoke cloture, on the motion to proceed to a health care bill sometime on Thursday in order to set up a Saturday vote. All 40 Republicans are expected to oppose that motion. If even one Democrat or Independent joins them, the bill will not be allowed to come up for debate and amendment.Reid also shot down the notion that in his conversations with fence-sitting Democratic centrists he may have threatened to use controversial budget reconciliation rules that would allow him to bypass a filibuster and pass a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes.“I’m not using reconciliation,— Reid said when asked whether his meeting Wednesday with Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) involved talk of the maneuver. Lincoln in particular has insisted that the measure be available on the Internet for review for at least 72 hours before a vote is taken. If Reid decides to abide by her request, the filibuster-busting vote would not occur until Saturday evening, one senior Senate Democratic aide said.