Senate Democrats will eventually cobble together the 60 votes they need to pass their version of healthcare reform with a public plan intact, one top Republican lawmaker acknowledged Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will "shop the votes" he needs to bring the bill to the floor and end debate when the time arises, and his efforts should again prove successful once the chamber considers a healthcare conference report,  Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) told CNBC last night.


"My guess is, they'll be able to pass something, and it will be very, very expensive and add a lot to our debt," the New Hampshire Republican said, noting that Democrats are likely to allege the bill is "paid for [but] most of the pay-fors will never come to" fruition.

"Then they'll take it to conference, and in conference, all the hard language will be put on by the Speaker and her cadre," Gregg added. "You'll end up with a public plan, you'll end up with a very expensive plan, you'll end up with major tax increases.... premiums will go up, and they'll bring that bill back [to the Senate]."

Once that bill returns, Gregg explained Democrats will only face one more 60-vote procedural vote before considering the conference report for final passage. He predicted then, too, the party's efforts would prevail.

"People can hide behind procedural votes, you know, because the final passage will only take 51 votes, so they can let some of their members go," he said. "That's the scenario I see..."

Interestingly enough, Senate Democrats hardly seem as confident: A number of the party's centrists have yet to reveal how they might ultimately vote once the chamber begins considering its healthcare bill.

Among those troubling Reid and his whip team are Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), whose public statements recently have signaled they still have serious qualms with their party's healthcare efforts.

Nevertheless, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) stressed on Monday that Democrats would pass healthcare by the year's end -- even if doing so meant working long, grueling hours to fix the bill's sticking points.

“We’re going to be going long days — I’ve already talked to Leader Reid about this — long nights, weekends — constantly, from then until right before Christmas, when I think we’ll have the votes, hopefully, to pass the bill,” he said.