Senate Prepares for Cloture Vote on Omnibus

Posted December 12, 2009 at 7:37am

The Senate was scheduled Saturday morning to vote on a procedural motion to end debate on the $446.8 billion omnibus spending package, with no action on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pending health care bill expected until Monday at the earliest.The Senate is in session for the second consecutive weekend as Democrats race to approve crucial legislation — particularly an $848 billion health care reform package — by year’s end. There have been no votes on health care amendments since earlier this week, as Democrats wait for a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate on a potential compromise to the public insurance option. Reid announced earlier this month that the Senate would likely work weekends in December in an effort to complete its work before Christmas. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chose to hold the Nevada Democrat to his word, rejecting a deal to allow the Senate to vote on the appropriations bill without working the weekend, saying the GOP looked forward to continuing the health care debate.However, no health care votes are expected this weekend. The majority’s drive to pass reform is temporarily on hold while the CBO analyzes an alternative to the public insurance option negotiated by a group of 10 liberal and moderate Democratic Senators. An intraparty disagreement over the public option provision in the current bill remains a major obstacle to Reid’s quest to assemble a 60-vote coalition behind the legislation.Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans continued to haggle over health care amendments, including ones sponsored by those in the majority and the minority conferences, and it was unclear whether any of those proposals would receive a vote next week. An amendment offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to allow the reimportation of prescription drugs appeared to be causing Democrats internal problems because of its potential to significantly alter a key portion of the reform bill.The vote on the motion to end debate on the omnibus was set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday. A vote on final passage of the appropriations measure is likely to occur 2 p.m. Sunday.