It is "ambitious" but still possible to finish a debate on healthcare reform this year, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

"There's just not a lot of time left this year," Cardin said on the liberal "Bill Press Radio Show." "We'll need a couple of weeks on the floor of the Senate to complete our work, and that's being optimistic."

Cardin said that virtually every variable in the complicated and protracted debate would have to fall the right way for the House and Senate to produce a final bill by year's end.

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"Rarely does that happen in the United States Congress," Cardin added.

The Senate is expected to begin a debate over its health bill next week; the House passed its version Saturday. It's not clear how long the Senate debate will last, though Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) suggested Tuesday that senators expect "several weeks" to work out a deal on legislation they can pass.

Cardin also signaled that the timeline to pass another top Democratic priority, climate change legislation, had been pushed back as well.

"I don't believe we will have climate change on the floor of the Senate this year," he said. "I think that will come to the floor in 2010."