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.