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Merry Christmas, Senators!

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have given the senators an early Christmas present by agreeing to hold the vote on the passage of the Senate health reform bill around 8 a.m. this Thursday, instead of 7 p.m. as they had initially planned.

This will be the first time in 114 years that the Senate has held roll call on Christmas Eve, according to the Senate library.

Reid promised a few weeks back that a decision would be made before Christmas, and it looks like the Senate is coming right down to the wire. Thursday is Christmas Eve, and thanks to the scheduling change, senators who celebrate the holiday will be able to spend time with their family rather than at work.

The final vote on the health care legislation was initially scheduled for after 7 p.m. because Republicans said they would need to use the entire 30 hours of debate allowed under the rules after a filibuster has been cut off.

The scheduling agreement will allow the Republicans to say that they pushed the vote right up to Christmas Eve without having to ruin the holiday travel plans of senators, their aides, and anyone else who works in the Capitol.

If everything goes according to plan, it looks as if the health care bill will be adopted – unless a few Democrats decide to change their minds at the last moment. Once passed, the bill will head into conference committee with the House version, where a compromise will be reached. Then, more rounds of debate will ensue, bringing the health care reform debate well into the New Year.

Still, after all is said and done, Sen. Reid will be able to keep his promise and pass the Senate bill before Christmas – if only barely.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal.