The Stretch Run 

Posted: 9:11 pm Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

By Jamie Dupree

The end is in sight for Democrats in the U.S. Senate on health care legislation, as Senate leaders set a vote on the Democratic health bill for 8 am EST on Christmas Eve, which will allow Senators to zip home for the holidays soon after.

As some of my colleagues joked, the timing of that vote may be the about the only time that the two parties agree on anything related to health care in this Congress.

All that’s left are a series of procedural votes on Wednesday, and then final approval of the health care bill on Thursday.

Today, Democrats will have to muster 60 votes for a third time this week to cut off a Republican filibuster, which will then clear the way for final action on the health care bill.

“Our focus today and tomorrow is to complete this legislation,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid at a news conference in the Capitol, where he received thunderous applause from health care activists gathered in a room just across the hall from the Senate chamber.

For Democrats, there is finally a realization in recent days that they are going to take the next step in this health care debate, the step of getting a bill through the U.S. Senate.

“With apologies to Santa Claus, Christmas is going to be sort of anti-climactic this year,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Reporters kept pestering Democrats with questions about House-Senate negotiations, but Reid, Harkin and others tried to keep the spotlight on this achievement, which some in their own party thought was next to impossible.

“Health care reform is not a matter of if,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, “health care reform now is a matter of when.  And I think the President is enormously encouraged by that.”

Democrats and the White House will get the opportunity to prove that early next year.  For now, Republicans admit that they have to stand on the sidelines, and hope that one Senator or a handful of House members joins the GOP in opposition to this plan.

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