Durbin: No pre-recess vote on healthcare

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time that a pre-recess vote on healthcare reform is unlikely.

“We’re going to take a little longer to get it right,” Durbin told The Hill when asked about the oft-stated goal of a vote on or before Aug. 7, when a monthlong Senate recess begins. “Initially we had hoped for a full vote by then, but I don’t think it’s going to be possible.”

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Delaying the vote until after Labor Day would all but erase hopes of getting a bill to President Obama by mid-October, since the House and Senate versions would have to be reconciled in conference negotiations — assuming they pass their chambers.

Durbin said the bill was still largely on track, however, denying that momentum has stalled.

"I don't think so," he said. "This is a complex challenge, and we're taking a reasonable approach with it. It would be better if some Republicans joined us instead of just criticizing."

Asked Tuesday about the pre-recess deadline, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had stuck to it, telling reporters “my desire is to get it done this work period … But the goal is not a deadline. The goal is comprehensive healthcare reform. People out there need it.”

The realities of the Senate’s next few weeks makes Durbin’s position understandable. The Senate Finance Committee is now not expected to finish its markup of its healthcare bill until next week, at which point it would have to be reconciled with the version passed last week by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

What is likely, according to Democratic aides, is to have the unified version of that bill introduced on the floor before the recess, even if it is not brought to a final vote.

But approximately 80 amendments are expected to the bill, which would take up several days of debate.

Republicans are also likely to insist that all 40 of their members speak on the Senate floor about the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor before that vote, taking up still more time.

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