Reform this year or not?

REFORM THIS YEAR OR NOT?…. A senior Democratic leadership aide told ABC News yesterday that getting health care reform done in 2009 is “a no-go.” Soon after, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was asked, “Will you pass health care reform this year?” He replied, “We are not going to be bound by any timetables. We are going to do this as quickly as we can.”

What’s the trouble? It’s a combination of factors, including waiting on the CBO, dealing with center-right Democrats who aren’t on board with the plan, and scheduling time on an unfriendly calendar.

Mr. Reid is still waiting for cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, which is not expected to be complete until the end of this week. Mr. Reid will almost certainly need to make adjustments, and those will probably require further cost analysis.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be on recess for most of next week, at least from Wednesday, which is Veteran’s Day, through Monday, Nov. 16.

Chances are Mr. Reid’s bill will not be ready until then, at which point there is just one work week before lawmakers leave town again for Thanksgiving.

Once they get back, there are only three and a half weeks until Christmas.

So that effectively leaves a total of four and half weeks between now and Christmas for the Senate to debate its bill and — presuming the bills are approved in each chamber — for Democrats to reconcile any differences and for the House and Senate to approve the final version.

There are obviously a lot of hurdles to clear, but serious lawmakers, working through a deliberate process, should be able to pass reform by Christmas. The longer the delays, the harder it gets to pass the bill, and the worse the legislation is likely to become.

As for the House, Speaker Pelosi approved some minor changes to the reform bill through a so-called “manager’s amendment,” and while there are still some wrinkles to be ironed out, the chamber appears to be on track to approve the legislation before Veterans Day (Nov. 11), if not this week.