Sen. Corker says Republicans may shift strategy on healthcare reform legislation

Senate Republicans will discuss Monday whether to adjust their healthcare strategy to allow a vote on raising the debt limit for the federal government.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CNBC that Republicans could retool their efforts to derail the healthcare bill to allow the vote on that debt ceiling increase, since Democrats showed early Monday morning they have the 60 votes necessary to win future votes on healthcare.

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"There's other legislation still at play, so we'll see," Corker said. "I think all of us believe [healthcare] is an incredibly important piece of legislation ... but we'll know by lunch today."

"There's still the issue of the debt ceiling that has to be dealt with," Corker said. "We'll know by lunch today what's going to happen."

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) last week said the vote on raising the debt limit would be put off until the first week of January, which would force the Senate to return to Washington after a short holiday break. The House has already approved a $290 billion hike in the ceiling.

The final vote on healthcare would be cast at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve unless Republicans agree to speed up the process.

Conservative groups have pressured Senate Republicans to use every tool possible to delay a healthcare vote. Republicans have requested amendments be read in full and objected to Democrats' attempts to shorten the minimum 30 hours of debate that typically follows a cloture vote.

There's ultimately been little sign that Republicans would relent; Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) even suggested at one point that opponents pray for Democrats to miss the vote.

But Corker acknowledged that the GOP cannot "derail" the healthcare bill.

If Democrats have 60 votes, Republicans in drawing out the fight are also keeping themselves and their staffs away from home over the Christmas holiday.

The GOP had until now stressed it would continue making such procedural moves in an attempt to stop the bill from reaching a final floor vote. But as Corker on Monday noted, "It's hard to see what would derail it coming out of the Senate."


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