November 16, 2009

Senate Democrats, Republicans May Soon Debate Healthcare Bill

The Senate is set to debate a sweeping healthcare bill as soon as the Congressional Budget Office releases its report on how much the new bill could cost American taxpayers.

"The goal, still, is to at least start the debate before the Thanksgiving recess," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Once we hear from CBO, we will take the legislation to the caucus and hope to start floor debate as soon as possible."

The Thanksgiving recess is set for one week from today, on November 23.

The bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives last week in a 220-215 vote.

In order to call a debate, 60 senators would have to vote to continue, but Republican opposition could stall those plans.

Opposing parties disagree with the bill's inclusion of a government public option health insurance program to compete with private firms.

Even some Democrats appear to be opposed to the bill in its current stage.

Ben Nelson, Democratic senator from Nebraska, has announced he will withhold his approval for the bill until it changes a provision in place to pay for health plans that cover abortion.

Also, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week urged for the bill to be made available to lawmakers and the public for a period of 72 hours prior to a formal debate.

Still, the House and Senate could approve opposing bills, which would force them to create a compromising bill.