By Alexander Bolton - 07/16/09 01:35 PM EDT
But the sometimes-feisty leader stopped short of threatening to work into the August recess, as he has done in past years.
Reid said that it is “doable” to pass healthcare reform through the Senate before the recess scheduled to begin the second full week of August.
Reid shrugged off complaints by Republicans and some members of his own party that he and other Democratic leaders are trying to rush healthcare reform through Congress.
“Whether we brought this bill up at 12 o’clock tonight, or next November or next December, it would be too early,” Reid said of his critics’ complaints. “This is an important piece of legislation.”
Reid said the schedule he has set is realistic but indicated that he would not take a Procrustean stance.
“We’ve had this schedule for months now and I think we can meet the schedule that has been set,” he said. “We’re not interested in deadlines. We’re interested in trying to improve the healthcare delivery system of our country.”
When asked if the first week of August recess would be sacrificed to healthcare reform, Reid said: “I’m not going to be involved in timelines that are hypothetical in nature. I do the best I can in managing the floor time here.”
Senate Democrats hope to finish the Department of Defense authorization bill, confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and finish healthcare reform in the next few weeks.
Reid said he plans to merge the healthcare reform bill passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday with the bill produced by the Finance Committee.
The leader will bring a revenue-related measure from the House to the Senate floor and then amend it with a composite of the HELP and Finance Committee bills.
Reid said that he thought the yet-to-be-unveiled legislation would win 60 or more votes.
He said he has been studying the Senate’s procedural rules in case such a bill falls short of 60 votes. Then Democratic leaders would move legislation under budgetary reconciliation protection, which would enable them to pass healthcare reform with only 50 votes. Because only certain portions of healthcare reform would be eligible for such special protection, Democrats hope to avoid that scenario.