By Jordan Fabian and Ian Swanson - 11/11/09 05:49 PM EST
The House could be in session until nearly Christmas Eve to try to win final passage on a healthcare bill.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) outlined the new schedule
on Wednesday, saying he is prepared to keep the House working until
Dec. 22 in order to pass the keystone issue of President Barack Obama’s
first year in office.
The actions by Reid and Hoyer appear designed to meet a goal of
sending a healthcare bill to Obama’s desk by the end of the year,
though that task will be difficult given divisions among Democrats in
both chambers. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Vice President
Joe Biden and Obama himself have recently touted the year-end deadline.
Hoyer said the House would be in session for the first three weeks
of December, but that could be extended to the week of Christmas.
“The House could also be in session on Monday, Dec. 21, and Tuesday, Dec. 22, if needed,” Hoyer said in a statement.
“As action on health insurance reform legislation moves to the
Senate, the House is updating its schedule for November and December to
reflect that, and to ensure there is time to complete our work on other
important issues,” Hoyer said.
Late on Tuesday, Reid filed a motion to introduce the Senate
healthcare bill on Monday, Nov. 16. Anticipating a Republican
objection, the bill would be pushed onto the Senate calendar.
Reid’s action 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
It is uncertain whether several senators who caucus as Democrats,
including Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Sen. Ben Nelson
(D-Neb.), will support Reid on procedural motions that require 60 votes.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and National Republican
Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) have warned Democrats
that they will target any senators who support procedural votes on the
bill, and McConnell has indicated he’ll do everything possible to slow
the healthcare bill’s movement.
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. But Reid signaled Tuesday he may start the
process before he has the CBO score.
The House passed its healthcare reform bill in a tight 220-215 vote
late Saturday night, setting up the action in the Senate. But the way
in which the bill was approved has exposed new fissures in the
Democratic caucus over the hot-button issue of abortion.
Republicans joined 64 Democrats in supporting the amendment, and its
inclusion provided the healthcare bill the necessary support to squeak
through the House.
But abortion-rights supporters in the House now warn they will not
back a conference report on healthcare if the abortion language is not
removed. They say the language will prevent women who buy private
insurance from being covered for abortions.
Interest groups have also weighed in, running pressure ads against
lawmakers who voted for the abortion amendment. The Progressive Change
Campaign Committee launched online ads Wednesday against Rep. Bart
Stupak (D-Mich.), the sponsor of the amendment.
Liberal interest groups have also weighed in to pressure Democratic
senators who may not vote with their party on procedural motions.
The BlueAmerican Political Action Committee on Wednesday said it would air television ads calling on Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to vote with Democrats on procedural healthcare votes.