The end-of-the-year deadline

THE END-OF-THE-YEAR DEADLINE…. About a week ago, there were a few reports that the Senate is unlikely to get health care reform done before the end of the calendar year. On Wednesday, 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.”

The push, however, is still on. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, “We want to get health care done by the end of the year…. And when we say the end of the year, we’ve got a pretty firm end-of-the-year deadline.”

Meeting that deadline isn’t going to be easy. Right now, The Senate is in a holding pattern, waiting for a CBO score. If it comes by the end of the week, as the leadership hopes, expect a quick turnaround.

Senate Democratic leaders expect their long-awaited healthcare bill to hit the chamber floor as early as Monday. […]

Senior aides and senators say Democrats plan to pivot quickly and file the first procedural vote as early as Monday.

Monday is Nov. 16, which at first blush may look like it gives the chamber plenty of time to get this done before the end of the year. But the closer one looks, the more arduous the schedule appears.

The moment Reid can move forward, he will. The first step will be a Republican filibuster on the motion to proceed — just getting the process started, letting the debate begin. If the majority can overcome that first level of GOP obstructionism, they’ll run into another — Republicans may demand that the entire bill be read aloud, a tactic that is usually waived as a routine Senatorial courtesy, which would add a few more days of delay.

Clearing these hurdles would give the chamber three weeks in December to debate the bill and consider amendments.

Even optimists seem to think that the best we can hope for is Senate passage by Christmas. At that point, conference negotiations and final votes would occur in the New Year, with the expectation that the bill would be signed into law before the State of the Union address.

“I’m optimistic about that,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said of such a timetable.