By Walter Alarkon - 12/21/09 09:58 PM EST
Republicans signaled Monday they're considering allowing the
vote before Dec. 24, but that seems unlikely given that their entire
conference would have to agree.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled the
final vote for around 7 p.m. Thursday, but Democrats have noted it could
take place earlier if Republicans agreed to do so.
The timing of the remaining votes on the health bill is
"under discussion," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters after
Other GOP senators wouldn't comment on whether they would
force the Christmas Eve vote, referring questions about vote timing to GOP
Senate Democrats have four more procedural votes before they
can call for final passage of the healthcare bill.
The Senate will vote Tuesday morning at 7:15 on a package of
amendments to the bill, followed immediately by a vote to limit debate on a
substitute measure necessary for procedural reasons, said Majority Whip Dick
The vote on the substitute measure will take place Wednesday
afternoon, followed immediately by a vote to limit debate on the healthcare
bill itself. If that passes, the vote to pass the healthcare bill could take place at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Each vote could take place earlier if the Senate unanimously
agrees to do so. Since just one senator could force the full debate to be
dragged out, it's still likely that the vote will take place Thursday.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said that Republicans
aren't going to allow an earlier vote.
"We don't like voting on Christmas Eve any better than
you do," Kyl said in a floor speech. "But the answer to it is not to
make the time even shorter, but, rather, to take our time. Do it right."
Republican senators also said they're willing to block the
Democrats' plan to vote to increase the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling by $290
billion immediately after passage of the healthcare bill. The move is needed
because the federal debt is expected to breach the limit within weeks.
"I think the debt issue is one that we're preparing an
equal debate to this healthcare issue around," said Sen. Bob Corker
Corker said that he's certain the healthcare bill will lead
to more red ink and that the debt issue "eats at me in a real way."
Democrats have dismissed GOP attacks on the potential cost
of the healthcare bill, pointing to Congressional Budget Office estimates
showing that the bill would reduce deficits over the next 10 years.
Tony Romm contributed to this article.