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Sealing the Senate deal

If and when Senate Democratic leaders finish healthcare negotiations and nail down 60 votes, they will begin the process spelled out in Senate rules for ending the expected Republican filibusters and moving to a final vote on the legislation. The expected sequence of events is likely to stretch well into next week, possibly culminating in a Senate session on Christmas Day:

Step 1: The ‘manager’s amendment’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will move to insert a package of changes into the existing Senate healthcare bill. Republicans would begin their first filibuster at this point, but Democrats will move to block it by petitioning for cloture, which sets a limit on debate.

A one-day waiting period is required before a cloture vote can be taken. If the motion wins 60 votes, debate will be limited to 30 hours. (The Senate normally permits unlimited debate.)

Step 2: The ‘substitute amendment’ Because the legislation involves spending and taxes, and the Constitution requires that revenue bills originate in the House, Reid will take an unrelated revenue bill that has already been approved and sent to the Senate, strip it of its contents and insert the Senate’s healthcare language, effectively turning it into the Senate healthcare bill. To forestall another filibuster attempt, Democrats again will move to limit debate to 30 hours.

Step 3: Consideration of the final bill A final filibuster attempt could come here, prompting another cloture procedure. After that, a simple majority -- 51 votes -- would be required to pass the bill.

Final step The filibuster-cloture process is likely to be repeated over the final version of the bill reconciling differences between House and Senate versions -- a process expected to run into next year.

Source: Kim Geiger


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