Senate healthcare debate Day 2: partisan warfare by amendment
The US Senate began voting Tuesday on amendments and counter-amendments to the healthcare reform bill, as senators battle to shape the final product.
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That sort of partisan warfare by amendment is likely to continue through coming weeks, as the Senate continues work on the bill while majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada tries to line up a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.Skip to next paragraph
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Senator Reid has even promised Senators they are going to have to work on weekends as he tries to meet his self-imposed deadline of passing a bill by Christmas.
Victory or defeat on this bill likely will involve the thinnest of margins – one vote or two, either way. A number of tough issues – abortion funding, a possible government-run insurance plan, taxes on high-cost private insurance plans – stand between Reid and that winning edge.
Yet even if healthcare reform passes the Senate, the bill won’t be final.
The House has already passed its version of the bill. If the Senate does the same, then the two chambers will have to set up a conference committee, consisting of senior members of the House and Senate. And this committee will have the power to mash the two bills together, throwing bits out here, adding bits there, to make them identical.
For a big bill such as healthcare reform, this could be the crucial stage. Meetings are supposed to be open, but lots of bargaining in conference committees goes on behind closed doors. Members aren’t supposed to add things that aren’t in either the House or Senate version of the bill in question, but it still happens.
There are big ideological differences between the House and Senate over such things as the design of a government-run insurance plan, the so-called “public option”. The fight to reconcile the two bills could be as tough as the one now going on, on the Senate floor.
And what happens after the conference committee reaches agreement? Sen. Reid would have to search for his 60-vote majority all over again, as the Senate, and the House, approve or disapprove of the final version.
So all that arguing now going on in the Senate? It’s just the beginning.
And our series on healthcare holdouts:
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