Senate Sets Health Reform Vote for Early Morning Christmas Eve

BY Lea Winerman  December 22, 2009 at 3:49 PM EST

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It’s an early Christmas present for Senators and their staff. Senate leaders announced Tuesday that they had scheduled a final vote on the Senate’s health care reform bill for 8 a.m. on December 24.

Democrats appear to have locked up the 60 votes necessary to end any filibuster attempt and pass the bill — and the bill has already passed two procedural hurdles in party-line votes.

But Republicans — in a final effort to slow down the bill’s timeline and thwart Democrats’ effort to pass it before Christmas — had been threatening to force the Senate to use all of the debate time required by the Senate’s procedural rules. That would have forced a vote late in the evening Christmas Eve. Even President Obama is [considering](http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/12/obama-may-delay-start-of-vacat.html?hpid=topnews) pushing back his vacation plans until after the Senate votes on the bill. But faced with [restive](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/21/AR2009122103528.html?hpid=topnews) [Senators](http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/30842.html) and staff eager to get home for Christmas — and an approaching snowstorm in the Midwest that could complicate Christmas travel plans — Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., worked out a compromise to allow the earlier vote. Senators [will also vote](http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BL41Y20091222) Thursday on a measure to temporarily increase the federal debt limit by $290 billion, for two months — setting the stage for another debate on the issue next year. The debt limit vote had threatened to bring the Senators back to Washington between Christmas and New Year’s day. In an attempt to wrap up legislative business and pass the health bill before Christmas, Senators have been dealing with a packed schedule of votes at odd hours since Friday, when they passed a defense spending bill at 1 a.m. They also voted around 7 a.m. Saturday, 1 a.m. Monday, and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday — and some tempers were beginning to fray. “I would hope that everyone would go back to their gentlemanly ways,” Reid said Tuesday. “Let’s just all try to get along.” And McConnell said that the debate over health care reform will continue after the Senate vote. “The final vote in the Senate is not the final vote. There are substantial differences between the House and Senate bills,” he said. “The American people are still going to have another month or so, I would guess, to weigh in and express their concerns about this package to each of their representatives,” [he told reporters](http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gX-nSbrY8TfjaR0o-T9mCUG9g6Zg), according to Agence France-Presse.