White House Does Not Expect Conference Bill Before State Of The Union Speech
Although the Senate is slated to vote on its health overhaul legislation before Christmas, "[t]he White House privately anticipates health care talks to slip into February - past President Barack Obamas first State of the Union address," Politico reports.
"Obama has been told that disputes over abortion and the tight schedule are highly likely to delay a final deal, a blow to the president, who had hoped to trumpet a health care victory in his big speech to the nation. But he has also been told that House Democratic leaders seem inclined, at least for now, to largely accept the compromise worked out in the Senate, virtually ensuring he will eventually get a deal. Logistically, it's hard to see how this gets done before early to mid-February. The House comes back into session on Jan. 12 and then goes on a Democratic retreat. The Senate doesn't come back until Jan. 18. And once a final health deal is worked out, it could take seven to 10 days for the Congressional Budget Office to deliver a final report on cost" (Allen/Trowbridge, 12/23).
The Associated Press reports that Democrats and Republicans are both viewing passage of health care reform in the Senate as inevitable. Senators are scheduled to vote on the measure at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Christmas Eve.
The timeline is "11 hours earlier than originally scheduled, thanks to a deal struck Tuesday between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Republicans had been threatening to use all the time available to them, which would have kept the Senate in session late into the night before Christmas." But bad weather and Reid's shoring up of the 60 votes in his caucus all but assures approval.
"Unable to prevent passage of the landmark legislation, Republicans are stepping up their criticism of it, focusing in on the special deals some senators got." Those deals include Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who secured federal dollars for his state to help pay for a Medicaid expansion (Werner, 12/23).
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram/McClatchy: McConnell said "that he'd been willing to stay late into Christmas Eve because 'it's important that we take the time to analyze it in every way that we can before the final votes are taken in the Senate.'" He vowed that the debate is not over (Lightman and Talev, 12/22).
The Hill reports that Reid had wanted to leave Dec. 23, but Republicans were pressed by "conservative activists" to push the vote to Christmas Eve. "'We hope to be able to complete it (Wednesday),' Reid said. 'Certainly with ice storms coming to the Midwest we hope that we can finish tomorrow and not have to be here Christmas Eve.'" But in the end, Reid and McConnell agreed to the Christmas Eve morning timeline, meaning negotiations will soon begin to merge the Senate and House bills (Young, 12/22).