Reid Confident Reconciliation Will Pass Quickly and Unchanged

Posted March 24, 2010 at 11:54am

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday predicted a quick resolution to the Senate’s health care reconciliation debate, saying he feels increasingly confident that Democrats will be able to pass the bill unchanged and send it to the president.

At a press conference with seniors and medical groups, Reid indicated the Senate could finish action on the bill late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. However, Budget ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) told a group of reporters that Reid may be overly optimistic, saying the expected vote-a-rama on amendments would “go on awhile. You can assume that.”

Similarly, a Senate GOP aide said Republicans were on track to surpass the record set for amendments voted on in a vote-a-rama. That record is 54.

Still, Reid said he believes Democrats will vote down all amendments and believes their efforts in crafting the bill have gone a long way toward preventing Republicans from raising any budget points of order. If the Parliamentarian rules that any provision is subject to a point of order, 60 votes — one more than the 59 Senators in the Democratic Conference— would be needed to prevent the provision from being stricken.

“We feel very comfortable and confident that we have scrubbed this bill,” Reid told reporters. “We have worked tirelessly with … budget staff, CBO, Parliamentarian, so we feel comfortable with where we are.”

Of his ability to keep at least 51 Democrats united against all GOP amendments, Reid said, “All the amendments we’ll take care of.” But he left open the possibility that Republicans may find some provisions that fall outside the strict budget reconciliation rules. “The points of order, we’ll see what they do,” he said.

Reid also accused Republicans of political gamesmanship for the types of amendments they have offered so far in the debate.

“How serious could they be offering an amendment dealing with gay marriage in the District of Columbia? How serious could they be offering an amendment dealing with Viagra for rapists?” he said.

The reconciliation bill, which is intended to make a series of “fixes” to the comprehensive health care reform bill signed into law Tuesday, cannot be filibustered. Debate on the bill is limited to 20 hours; that is expected to expire around 5:30 pm Wednesday. Senators will then enter a period of nearly nonstop voting on any and all amendments and motions offered to the bill.

Republicans have continued to hold out the possibility that they will find a point of order that will force the bill to be sent back to the House for a revote, and they have held a series of talks with the Parliamentarian over the past few days. Gregg indicated that Republican staffers are still combing the more than 2,000-page bill for any potential weaknesses that could be exploited, and he declined to say whether they felt confident they would be able to poke even the smallest of holes in the measure before debate and the vote-a-rama end.

“We’re interested in the substance of amendments right now. We want to make the case for why this bill is a bad bill and needs to be fixed,” Gregg said. “The procedural attacks are available to us. There’s no point in moving on them until we’ve made our substantive case.”

David M. Drucker contributed to this report.