Will Obama get a Senate Christmas gift?
Senate Democrats are confident they will pass a sweeping healthcare overhaul and give President Barack Obama a significant victory on one of his top domestic priorities. But will they do it by Christmas?
It will be hard. Right now the bill is hung up over a Democratic amendment that would allow patients and pharmacies to import cheaper prescription drugs from other countries, including Canada. Democrats are also waiting for an official cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office on a proposed compromise that would drop the government-run public option from the bill.
The compromise would call on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to contract with insurance companies to provide non-profit health plans that would be offered on proposed new insurance exchanges. The compromise would also allow people 55 to 64 to buy into the Medicare health program for the elderly.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid would have to begin the process for a final series of procedural votes by the end of next week if senators have any hope of passing the bill by Christmas. That is a tall order.
Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy has already given up the idea of spending Christmas in Vermont. He’s having his tree shipped to Washington where he says he’ll be spending the holiday.
The Senate also has to pass a major spending bill and increase the debt limit so the government can continue to borrow and make interest payments.
The Senate will be holding a rare weekend session, the second in a row, to vote on a spending bill that will fund much of the government through September.
The Senate is expected to resume debate on the healthcare overhaul on Monday. But it could temporarily set aside the bill again to vote on a must-pass defense spending bill. That bill is also likely to include the debt limit increase and money to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
It looks like senators will be passing more than the egg nog for Christmas!
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama greeted by Santa at tree lighting ceremony)