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A Merged Senate Bill by Monday?

November 10, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Democratic leaders in the Senate are now planning on having a health care bill on the Senate floor by next Monday, much sooner than anyone had been expecting.

As it stands, the public has access to the health care bills as passed by the Senate Finance Committee (S. 1796) and the Senate HELP Committee (S. 1679), but not to the merged version that will be brought to the floor for debate and votes. The merged version does in fact exist, however, and it’s currently being examined by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO is expected to report their findings by the end of this week or Monday of next week. If their findings are to Senate Dems’ likings, the bill will be made available to the public on Monday.

What does this mean for the bill’s transparency? Basically, it means that if all goes according to the Senate Democratic leadership’s schedule, the first vote on the bill could occur just hours after the text and details of it are made available to the public. Senate Republicans and Democrats outside of the leadership would likely not have much more time than the rest of us to read the bill before they vote.

The reason, I assume, that the Senate feels they can justify this pace is that the vote that would be taking on Monday would not technically be a vote on the bill. It wouldn’t even be a vote on beginning the debate of the bill. It would be on a motion to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to the debate. In other words, it would be a vote to overcome a Republican filibuster of even considering debating the bill. If that motion is approved — it would take 60 votes — the Senate would proceed to 30 clock hours of debating whether or not to begin the actual debate of the bill. Once those 30 hours are up, the Senate would then take another vote, requiring a simple majority of 51 votes, to begin the official debate. All of this would likely take until Thursday to pass. By that point, if the bill is in fact made public on Monday, it will have been officially available online for 72 hours before debate begins, just like it was in the House.

In reality, however, the vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed is not just procedural. It often has substantial implications. If some Democrat disliked the bill so much that they didn’t even want it debated on the floor, they could join with the Republicans on the motion and block it. Right now, that’s not expected to happen, but neither is it expected to be a pleasant, bipartisan event. It’s a little bit like “agreeing to the rule” in the House, which was a partisan vote that was held captive by conservative Democrats to force a vote on changing abortion language in the bill. Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] is already threatening to vote against the motion to proceed if it doesn’t contain language similar to the abortion funding amendment the House added to their bill.

We’ll be working to get you the full text of the merged Senate bill online as soon as possible. For now, here’s an overview of some of the big differences between the Finance Committee and HELP Committee bills. These are some of the things we’ll be looking at as soon as the merged bill is available to see what the Dem leadership has decided. With the passage of the Stupak abortion amendment in the House this past weekend, we’ll also be looking for what changes, if any, Senate Democrats make to their bills’ abortion language. Subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed for updates.

As for the broader health care timeline in the Senate, we’re probably looking at at least three weeks of debate and potentially a final vote before Christmas. Passage of the bill still seems shaky, and you can be sure that anything that comes out of the Senate will look significantly different from the bill that was passed by the House last Saturday.

UPDATE: Contradicting all the earlier reports, Congress Daily ($) is reporting that there may be a bill on Monday, but there probably won’t be a vote:

Top Senate Democrats plan to start debate on a healthcare overhaul bill next week, but they said today a key vote on a motion to proceed to the bill might not occur until after Thanksgiving and that final passage might not come this year.


“Boy, that would be terrific, if we could get a motion to proceed” before the holiday, Durbin said.

Durbin said Reid is working to assure that 60 senators commit to initially vote to cut off a GOP filibuster on the motion to proceed, and Democrats will not move if they are not sure of the votes. Democrats remain focused on securing commitments to move to the bill, betting that changes on the floor can win over holdouts, he said.

“What we are aiming for is for people to … understand what’s in the bill and commit to moving forward with the debate,” Durbin said. “That is what the motion to proceed is all about. No final commitment has been made on passage, obviously, until people have a chance to review it carefully. And clearly we’re going to make some changes.”
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  • baldeagle 11/10/2009 12:16pm
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    + -1

    Senators if you aren’t given time to read this bill (or any other bill) you should vote NO!!! It is time to start doing the right thing. No more dig dig dig and put us in a deeper hole.

  • Comm_reply
    Benji2112 11/15/2009 7:59am

    This is in no way a shoe in. Not by any standards. Fight it smartly. There are just as many democrats in the senate who are opposed to parts or ALL of it.
    The house was 5 votes. The canyon is much wider in the Senate Since the bill will need 60 votes in the Senate after the conference report, Lieberman, Maine’s Snowe and Collins and a handful of other moderates will each have a veto. And, collectively, the liberals in each chamber will have one as well.

    They will be arguing with each other for months.

  • monomoy2000 11/11/2009 12:31am

    Any bill passed with a slim margin is by its very definition ignoring the will of the people. This is nothing more than a blatant power grab.

  • Comm_reply
    HonestAbe1 11/11/2009 6:52am

    Sorry there mono; that’s the very definition of ignoring reality.

  • Visigoth 11/11/2009 3:30am
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    + -1

    The healthcare bill is unconstitutional because it is a ‘bill of attainder’.

    “A bill of attainder, is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without judicial trial and includes any legislative act which takes away the life, liberty or property of a particular named or easily ascertainable person or group of persons because the legislature thinks them guilty of conduct which deserves punishment” [yet for which no court has adjudged them guilty]. "


  • Visigoth 11/11/2009 3:31am
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    + -1

    On three counts ;

    1.the bill takes away liberty ( because we are no longer free to choose )

    2. It inflicts punishment – as we the people will be fined and imprisoned if
    we do not have insurance ( without due process )

    3. and it takes away life – abortions..

    (f) A statute which inflicts its deprivation upon named or described persons or groups constitutes a bill of attainder whether its aim is retributive, punishing past acts, or preventive, discouraging future conduct. In America Communications Ass’n v. Douds, 339 U. S. 382, where the Court upheld § 9(h)

  • Comm_reply
    HonestAbe1 11/11/2009 7:02am
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    + -1

    On those 3 counts there, Visigoth:

    1: choose away. This bill preserves your current choices and adds another, because the insurance monopolies have rigged the field in their favor.

    2: insurance companies rescinding coverage when Americans are sick & need $ for chemo or dialysis treatment- is cruel & unusual. Exemptions and hardship deferments waive punishments for those incapable of participating.

    2b: The insurance industry’s fury rose, not because of the mandate, but because the mandate’s punishments weren’t hard enough. Visi—- that right there is case in point of why the industry needs to be tackled.

    3: A lie by any other name is still a lie. The Hyde Amendment, profoundly, is still in effect.

  • Comm_reply
    HonestAbe1 11/11/2009 7:03am
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    + -1

    The Republican and Pro-Life concerns about the bill solely address the matter that individuals who pay their private money to purchase private insurance policies offered in the insurance exchange might have abortion coverage within that existing private commercial insurance policy.

    That’s a 3 count, Visi. Yer out.

  • Comm_reply
    baldeagle 11/11/2009 9:45am

    Not true HA1. The biggest problem is the government trying to take over and run everything. They are not very good at anything except spending alot of money.

  • Comm_reply
    baldeagle 11/11/2009 9:40am

    HonestAbe1… Why are the insurance companies the villians? The Congress is the cause of most of our problems. They make the laws (rig the field). Why don’t they allow insurance companies to compete accross state lines, disallow pre-existing conditions, not allow insurance companies to drop coverage, and remove the anti-trust exemption. Congress is trying to ram through a bill that the majority doesn’t agree with. Why not pass a bill that the insurance companies don’t agree with, especially if they are as villianous as you think they are. If you throw in some tort reform maybe Insurance companies won’t be quite so disagreeable on the rest.

  • Comm_reply
    Visigoth 11/11/2009 11:37am

    Indeed.., oh those evil and greedy insurance execs !! I am sure the auto and life insurance execs will be next !! ( they are also evil and greedy, yes ?! ).

    Speaking of which.., what about – THE FEDERAL RESERVE ?? They are NOT an agency of the government, they are a FOR PROFIT private corporation, and they CONTROL OUR ECONOMY !! Talk about evil and greedy execs !!!

    But hey, keep the people’s attention diverted from the real problem and cause of our economic woes…

  • JerrolLeBaron 11/11/2009 9:21am

    Take a look at this video.

    This is what happens when reading the bill is not important.

    Gross government waste or violations routinely come about when the bills are not read. Witness: Bush Bailout, Stimulus Package, Patriot Act.

    I don’t care what Party a person belongs to. If a lawmaker is going to vote in favor of the bill, that person has a moral and fiduciary responsibility to read and thoroughly analyze the bill. This applies to any bill, not just the healthcare bill.

    Competent deliberation is not possible if no one has read the bill. Read it. Understand it. Have a fine-tuning debate about it. Make the healthcare or any bill as good as it can be.

    We’ve already had enough slipshod laws passed over the last decade. Let’s get some good ones passed now.

    Jerrol LeBaron
    Executive Director
    Honor In Office

  • Visigoth 11/11/2009 9:38am

    " 1: choose away. This bill preserves your current choices and adds another, because the insurance monopolies have rigged the field in their favor."

    • The public option will remove choice, period. *
    the “Limitation On New Enrollment” section of the bill clearly states:

    “Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day” of the year the legislation becomes law.
    “(A) IN GENERAL- The Commissioner shall establish a grace period whereby, for plan years beginning after the end of the 5-year period beginning with Y1, an employment-based health plan in operation as of the day before the first day of Y1 must meet the same requirements as apply to a qualified health benefits plan under section 201, including the essential benefit package requirement under section 221.”

  • Visigoth 11/11/2009 9:40am
    • Thus, once the bill is in effect, noone will be allowed to enroll in private insurance. An appointed Commissioner will decide what plans ( and what they contain ) are acceptable. Choice indeed. **

    “2: insurance companies rescinding coverage when Americans are sick & need $ for chemo or dialysis treatment- is cruel & unusual.”

    *And what will be your response when rationing occurs ? It will be ok then ? It is the same thing ( only under a different name ). Where are the magical physics equations that compute how more people will be covered without an increase in medical personnel, yet costs will come down ?! Setting regulation that must be followed regarding the coverage of pre-existing conditions can be accomplished without Government arrogation. *
  • Visigoth 11/11/2009 9:40am

    " Exemptions and hardship deferments waive punishments for those incapable of participating. "

    • Thus, those who can afford it do not have a choice ( join or be penalized – the definition of a bill of attainder ).*
  • Visigoth 11/11/2009 9:43am

    “The Republican and Pro-Life concerns about the bill solely address the matter that individuals who pay their private money to purchase private insurance policies offered in the insurance exchange might have abortion coverage within that existing private commercial insurance policy. "

    • Sure. Their concerns are that abortion will be funded by TAXPAYER money **

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