Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) late Tuesday laid the groundwork for the Senate's healthcare reform debate to start next Tuesday.
Reid filed a motion to introduce the bill on Monday, Nov. 16. Anticipating a Republican objection, the bill would be pushed onto the Senate calendar.
"A motion to proceed to the bill would be in order the next legislative day," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.
In doing so, Reid heeded the advice of former President Bill Clinton, who visited Senate Democrats Tuesday at their weekly caucus lunch and urged them to move quickly to pass health reform. Clinton imparted lessons from his own attempt during his presidency, in 1993, and said Democrats should be prepared to compromise but should act with speed.
Currently, the Senate's healthcare bill is awaiting a cost analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, which senior Democratic aides expect by the end of this week.
Reid's action late Tuesday sets up a critical vote next week on a motion to proceed to the bill. Such a motion would require 60 votes to succeed — an important, early test of the Democratic caucus's unity on procedural votes. Several senators who caucus as Democrats have expressed skepticism about the bill, while others have expressed a willingness to support procedural votes. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) have both warned Democrats that they will target any senators who support procedural votes on the bill.