Senate Dems won't say if healthcare will get done by New Year's

Senate Democratic leaders were hesitant Tuesday when pressed on the chances for a congressional healthcare bill by the end of the year, suggesting the bill may be headed for a winter 2010 vote.

Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would not commit to reporters asking about the likelihood of a vote by Christmas, noting that the Congressional Budget Office is analyzing a Senate bill that has been merged from two versions passed by committees.

Asked point-blank if a healthcare bill was possible by the end of the year, Reid told reporters he is pushing for a vote “as expeditiously as we can.”

“We're not going to be bound by any timelines,” Reid said. “We need to do the best job we can for the American people. We want quality legislation, and we're going to do that.”

Even while House leaders pressed forward for a vote on a House version this week, Reid and Durbin said their hands are tied until the CBO releases its cost estimate of the Senate bill. Then the document would be published online for public review, possibly revised and re-analyzed by the CBO, and then several weeks would be needed for House-Senate conference talks.

Despite months-old predictions of a bill before Christmas, with only six weeks of legislative time remaining in the year Durbin acknowledged a healthcare bill in 2009 “is certainly a challenge.”

“A lot of this is out of our hands,” he said. “When the CBO reports back, as Sen. Reid said, it’s likely they’ll have to return. Then when we get the bill, we’ve said we’re going to post it … Here’s the point: It’s out of our hands. We can’t control it. And we’ve got intervening things like Thanksgiving.”

Durbin said a decision on when to schedule a final vote won’t be made for several days, after the CBO finishes its analysis.

“But let me tell you, it’s beginning to look like we’re going to spend a lot of time together in December,” he said.