If Democrats want to finish the health care bill in the Senate before Christmas, they can do that. But it will take every available minute from now until the time most of you are eating your dinner on Christmas Eve.
The Senate returns to session on this Sunday at 1pm, which sounds like an okay time. There will be debate until 11:30 pm, when the Senate will recess.
Because of the peculiar rules relating to cloture petitions, the Senate will reconvene on Monday at 12:01 am, and then one hour later, Senators will vote on whether to shut off debate on the 383 page package that was unveiled on Saturday morning.
After that vote – where one assumes Democrats will get 60 votes – then there is (by rule) 30 hours of post-cloture debate.
That means at 7:30 am on Tuesday, the Senate will take two more votes: one on the new health amendment, and then the second of three cloture votes before Christmas. This one is on the underlying substitute amendment to the bill.
30 hours later, at around 2 pm on Wednesday (let’s hear it for a decent working hour), the Senate will vote on the substitute amendment, followed by a cloture motion to shut off debate on the entire bill (60 votes needed).
30 hours after that, around 8pm on Christmas Eve – or earlier, if Republicans want to leave town at a reasonable time – there would be final passage of the bill.
Is there anything that could screw up this time line? Right now, unless some item is found in the bill that is completely crazy, the 60 votes seem to be in order.
But there is one wild card – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Is he going to vote no?
Nope. That’s not the issue. The question is whether he makes it back to DC.
See, Lieberman flew home to Connecticut on Friday night, before the big snowstorm, which then headed for New England. Can he make it back?
I guess that’s his only assignment for today. Maybe the Amtrak train is going to be his best bet.