What's Next for Healthcare In the Senate?

Saturday night House Democrats passed their version of healthcare reform by only three votes while holding a super majority. With all eyes now looking toward the Senate many believe the bill is dead upon arrival as Democrats control exactly 60 seats of 100 leaving no margin for error.

But will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid be able to buy off moderates like Sens. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins (R.-Maine) with a “trigger option” in which the bill would include the public option, but it wouldn’t be implemented unless private insurers could not lower current costs and widen access. (See HUMAN EVENTS Devil’s Dictionary of Healthcare Reform) And even if Reid can buy off Snowe and Collins can he convince other defecting Democrats to get on board?

“I don’t know what Reid’s plan is at this point my guess is that he doesn’t yet either” Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Az) told HUMAN EVENTS.

“Because they don’t have a bill written and they don’t have a bill scored and there is a requirement that we at least have some time to see it before we start … it will take at least a week maybe more for the CBO to score the bill after it’s written.”

Kyl said at earliest the bill could be seen after Thanksgiving recess, only three weeks until Christmas recess. Considering the months and months that the House mulled over their bill, it could be February before anything gets to a final passage vote.  

Kyl told HUMAN EVENTS that two things that have to occur before the Senate can have a vote on final passage, one is that all 60 Democrats (or Democrats and enough Republican defectors to reach the 60-votes needed to block a filibuster) have to be on board with it, “and two after you have had all of the debate and amendments and so on, you still have to have 60 votes again to get off the bill — and have a final vote — so who knows if all the votes are there and if so whether that will occur,” said Kyl.

And on buying off the moderates with trigger options and reconciliation — although Kyl used kinder words — he believes that Reid will do everything it takes.

“I’m sure he will do whatever he thinks is necessary to persuade his members to support what he wants to do — at the end and he will probably have to, to have 60 Dems.”

With reconciliation “I’m not exactly sure how this will go but it’s possible that if he doesn’t believe he has 60 votes — at one of those critical junctures — he could in effect call time out legislatively, go back though committee and bring a bill up on reconciliation which would only require 50 votes” said Kyl.  “But that would be a truncated version of the legislation because you can’t do in reconciliation all of the things you would do with 60 votes.”

Just one vote shy of the 60 needed could subject the bill to filibuster, a process that could block the bill. Already Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) who caucuses with Democrats reiterated his promise to filibuster any bill that contains the public option in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

“If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe debt can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today," said Lieberman.

Five other Democrat Senators either facing tough re-elections or have taken strong stances against the public option also pose a threat to Reid’s possible 60-vote super-majority; Evan Bayh (D-IN), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Kent Conrad (D-ND).


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