The Midnight Oil 

Posted: 10:12 pm Thursday, December 17th, 2009

By Jamie Dupree

The Senate on Thursday started working what might be up to seven straight days of all night sessions if Democrats are to get a health care bill approved before a Christmas break.  And even if that happens, lamwakers might be back in between Christmas and New Year’s for more battling.

The Parliamentary Battle began on the Defense bill, which Democrats want to finish before moving to the health care bill.

Democrats forced a vote on Thursday evening to recess the Senate until 12:01 am on Friday.  One hour after that (by rule) the Senate was able to vote on a motion to limit debate on the Defense bill.

Democrats won that vote, getting the necessary 60 votes to force final action on the Defense budget.  But it takes 30 hours before a final vote on the bill can be taken.

So, that vote will come at 7am on Saturday, after what may be an all night debate on Friday night.

After that, it’s on to the health bill, with a repeat of the late night votes and cloture votes.

Monday morning at 1:01 am, there would be the first of three cloture motions to limit debate on the health care bill.  Three are needed because of the way the amendments have been arranged by Democrats.

30 hours later at 7 am on Tuesday morning, there could be final action on the first amendment, followed by a cloture vote on the second amendment.

30 hours later at 1 pm on Wednesday, there would be a final vote on the second amendment, followed by a cloture vote on the underlying health care amendment.

30 hours after that around 8pm on Christmas Eve, there would be final action on the bill.

But that’s only if everything goes according to plan.

And only if Democrats really do have 60 votes.  And some final legislative language.  And a cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

Right now, they don’t have any of that.  So we’ll see how long the midnight oil really burns.