GOP aides say policy riders need 60 Senate votes

Congressional aides on Tuesday huddled to clear up some confusion over a key facet of the budget deal struck on Friday.

A key Republican earlier Tuesday suggested the agreement calls for up-and-down votes in the Senate on policy riders that would defund the implementation of healthcare reform and defund Planned Parenthood. Democrats contend the pact calls for a 60-vote threshold, not 51.

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During a press conference on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the votes on healthcare reform and Planned Parenthood will be "up-or-down" in the Senate.

Asked if that meant 60 votes would not be needed for passage, Cantor responded, “That is correct.”

But Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told The Hill that 60 votes are required for the budget agreement, as well as both policy riders. 

After the deal was announced on Friday night, many House Republicans believed only a simple majority of senators would need to vote yes to pass the controversial healthcare and Planned Parenthood amendments. A Senate Democratic leadership aide on Saturday disputed those claims.

UPDATED AT 4:35 p.m: The agreement does call for a 60-vote threshold, House and Senate staffers said Tuesday afternoon.

According to a House GOP leadership aide, the matter was clarified on Tuesday when Senate staff explained that the upper chamber would take standalone, "up-or-down" votes on measures to defund the president's healthcare law and to defund Planned Parenthood. But in order to do so, the Senate will require those measures to pass with 60 votes in support.