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What to watch for in Saturday’s health care Senate vote

Senator Reid has lined up a Senate vote for Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Republicans have backed off of a threat to require that the 2,000 page bill be read aloud before a vote to proceed with debate is allowed. This concession will allow the Senate to go home for Thanksgiving and has set a Saturday schedule of 12 hours of debate and an 8 p.m. vote, that if passed, will allow debate to begin in the weeks and months to come on the $900 billion Senate Bill Reid introduced this week.

Reid and the Democrats are downplaying the importance of this vote as procedural; a 60 Senator vote to invoke cloture (to cut off debate) will simply allow for the bill to be introduced to the Senate floor for debate. The Republicans see it quite differently. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a report this week that shows that 97% of all bills that are subject to cloture, eventually become law. The two polar views serve to add pressure to the few remaining Democrats on the fence for Saturday’s vote.

So what to watch for with the four holdouts…

Senator Lieberman (I-Ct.) , who has come out strongly against the government run public option provision in the Reid bill this week, said he would vote with the Democrats Saturday night to allow debate to move forward, but would vote with the Republicans later to filibuster any vote on a bill that includes a Public option. So no drama here.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has yet to endorse the cloture vote, but emerged from a Thursday negotiation with Reid, with a two page inclusion in the bill, that would provide $100 million for her constituents in Louisiana to provide further support for health care for the poor. Her vote Saturday is all but assured now, with Republicans saying her vote has been paid for.

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Ne) has threatened to filibuster any bill, like the current bill, that provides for publically funded abortions, but has made comments in recent days that would lead most to believe his vote to proceed is in hand.

And finally Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) faces a re-election battle next year and has yet to tip her hand on how she will vote on Saturday. A recent Ak poll indicated that citizens strongly approve of a vote to proceed; so Lincoln, who has been watching the polls closely, may find comfort in that particular poll.


There will be much debate and positioning on the Reid Bill over the weeks ahead, but the outcome of tomorrow’s session is all but assured. Like last week’s House vote, anticipate that the Dems will herald this passage to proceed as another step in passing an historic bill; and across the aisle, as Senator Hatch (R-Ut) expressed this week, passage should cause the citizens of the US to rise up and rebel. Cloture, in this case, by no means provides clear sailing for this bill.

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