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Senate Prepares For Health Bill Procedural Vote

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Members of the Senate are expecting to vote shortly on whether to limit debate on a proposed “manager’s amendment” that would revamp H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The text of the 383-page “Reid-Baucus-Dodd-Harkin” amendment, Senate Amendment 3276, is available here. Senate Democrats unveiled the proposed amendment Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., developed the PPACA bill by merging drafts approved by the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senate rules permit opponents of legislation to block consideration by engaging in a filibuster, or endless round of debate. The manager’s amendment to the PPACA bill is the result of Democratic efforts to create a compromise version of the bill that could attract the 60 votes needed to ward off a filibuster and get the bill to the Senate floor.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., the last known Democratic holdout, said Saturday that he will support the bill, and Senate Democratic leaders now appear to have the votes they need to bring the manager’s amendment and the underlying bill up for votes on the Senate floor.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., today acknowledged that the Democrats seem to have the votes to advance the bill.

“We ought to pray that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” Coburn said.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., took issue with Coburn’s remark. “I don’t think we should be wishing misfortune on any of our Senate colleagues on either side of the aisle,” Durbin said.

If the Senate votes for cloture for the manager’s amendment, then Senate Democratic leaders hope to hold the vote on the amendment on Tuesday, and a final vote on the bill on Thursday, which is Christmas Eve.

Republicans blasted Reid’s decision to hold a vote around 1 a.m. Sunday, in the midst of a snowstorm, little more than a day after letting the public see the proposed manager’s amendment.

The Democrats are speeding the bill through the Senate “because they don’t want the American people to know what’s in it,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.