What Republicans Got for Allowing an Earlier Health Care VoteDecember 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
After filibustering and obstructing on health care reform for months, Republicans are letting a final vote on the Senate health care bill happen sooner than they have to under Senate rules. Republicans have agreed to forfeit some of their 30 hours of post-cloture debate and allow the vote to take place at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning instead of 7 p.m.
One reason they’re letting the vote go through earlier in the day is that senators are worried about some bad weather that is sweeping across the midwest. They want to make sure they will b able to fly home in time for Christmas. But the Republicans also got a pretty significant concession from the Democrats in exchange for allowing the earlier vote.
Before they leave for recess, the Senate has to raise the statutory limit on the national debt so that the federal government can continue operating and borrowing money. Immediately after the 8 a.m. health care vote, the Senate will vote on a bill to raise the debt ceiling by about $300 billion (H.R. 4314). That $300 billion increase is expected to run out in February and the ceiling will have to be raised again before that happens.
Under the agreement allowing the earlier health care vote, Senate Republicans have been guaranteed votes on four amendments to the second debt ceiling bill that the Democrats would probably rather have avoided. According to the Senate Calendar, the Republicans will be allowed to hold votes on the following amendments (all will be subject to a 60-vote requirement) when the second debt ceiling vote takes place in January:
Sen. Thune [R, SD] TARP amendment — would end the Troubled Assets Relief Program (Wall Street bailout) and require that all TARP funds that are repaid by banks be spent on reducing the debt. Many Democrats want to use repaid TARP money for job creation measures.
Sen. Murkowski [R, AK] EPA amendment — seeks to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouses gas emissions if Congress fails to pass their own climate change legislation.
Sen. Coburn [R, OK] rescission amendment — not much information available on this one, but it will likely change the rules and require that Congress votes on presidential rescission packages.
Sen. Sessions [R, AL] spending caps amendment — would set spending caps for the next five years on all discretionary government spending. Besides entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, the amendment would limit spending growth to a maximum of 2 percent per year for the next five years.