Federal Healthcare Update

December 21, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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Early this morning, the Senate voted 60-40 to invoke cloture on the manager’s amendment for the health care reform bill, clearing the first important procedural hurdle on the path to passing the bill. Senate Republicans have indicated that they are likely to force the full 30 hours of debate allowed after cloture vote on each of three pieces need to pass the bill – the manager’s amendment, the bill itself, and the underlying House measure (H.R. 3590) that the Senate is using as a vehicle for health care reform.  This morning’s vote sets in motion a schedule proposed by the leadership that would see the Senate voting on the final component of the bill at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve.
The manager’s amendment that was the subject of this morning’s vote is a 383 page package of changes to the bill compiled by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The amendment includes several concessions to moderate Democrats, including dropping both the public option and the proposed alternative plan of allowing people aged 55 and older to buy into Medicare. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), who won tighter restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions as well as increased federal health care aid for his state, was the last Senator to announce that he would support the plan.
After the final vote in the Senate, the bill will have to be combined with the House bill before being sent to the President. As there are substantial differences between the two bills, this will likely be a difficult conference process. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that the House will not simply accept the Senate bill as is.  Some moderate Senate Democrats have warned that they could turn against the bill if changes made during negotiations with the House move the bill too far to the left.