The pre-Christmas schedule in the Senate

THE PRE-CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE IN THE SENATE…. So, as of right this minute, it looks like there are 60 votes in the Senate to pass a health care bill. The goal has been to pass the legislation by Christmas. Is that still on track? For the most part.

Right now, Republicans are forcing Senate clerks to read the entire text of the 383-page Manager’s Amendment. To keep the schedule on track, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will have to start the clock on the first vote tonight, so the clerks will have to read rather quickly.

From there, here’s the way things will play out, if all goes according to plan:

* Monday, Dec. 21, at 1 a.m. (ET): The Senate will vote to end debate on the Manager’s Amendment. This will need a 60-vote majority. Almost immediately after, Reid will start the clock on the next cloture vote, which leads us to …

* Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 a.m. (ET): The Senate will vote, up or down, on the Manager’s Amendment. Almost immediately after, Reid will start the clock on the next cloture vote, which leads us to …

* Wednesday, Dec. 23, around 2 p.m. (ET): After some procedural votes on the original health care proposal, as amended by the Manager’s Amendment, the Senate will vote to end debate on the final health care bill. This will need a 60-vote majority. Almost immediately after, Reid will start the clock on the next cloture vote, which leads us to …

* Thursday, Dec. 24, sometime between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. (ET): They will vote, up or down, on health care reform.

Keep in mind, it is within Republicans’ power to shorten this schedule whenever they want. Indeed, the only reason it would be dragged out between today and late on Christmas Eve would be to overcome obstructionist hurdles put in place by Senate Republicans.

Put another way, the Senate could hold all of these votes in rapid succession, if only the GOP would allow it. But if they were to expedite things, the Republican base would accuse them of “rolling over” on health care, so the delays continue -even if that means keeping members voting literally on Christmas Eve.

And then what? Don’t expect any ping-ponging. The House has some changes in mind, and rumor has it, the White House does, too.