Getting the ball rolling again

GETTING THE BALL ROLLING AGAIN…. When the House of Representatives passed health care reform two weeks ago, it was heralded as a landmark achievement and sent a loud signal that this once-in-a-generation opportunity really was coming together. All eyes immediately turned to the Senate.

Where the momentum quickly came to a halt. We’ve had two weeks of a reform bill in limbo, waiting for the CBO, putting out fires, and generally just sitting around waiting for progress.

Today, the Senate leadership intends to get the ball rolling again.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will unveil and discuss his health care bill to Democrats at a special 5 pm caucus meeting tonight, sources say. Reid hopes to brief the caucus before the bill is publicly unveiled, and that could happen late tonight. A CBO analysis of that legislation is expected somewhat earlier in the day, and despite some last minute road bumps, Reid is reportedly very pleased with the numbers he’s seeing.

Reid may give the public 72 hours to review the bill before holding a cloture vote on a motion to proceed this weekend, though he may call for that vote slightly earlier.

Everything I’m hearing is entirely consistent with this. As I understand it, Reid has personally seen the numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, and is very pleased with the results. He’ll talk to the Democratic caucus about the CBO score at the 5 p.m. (ET) meeting, and some top-line numbers will likely be available, though the full CBO report may not be publicly released until tomorrow.

After the meeting with Senate Dems, Reid will likely host some kind of event on the Hill, talking up the bill and the CBO score. (Depending on the length of the caucus meeting, Reid may or may not wrap up in time for the evening newscasts.)

The White House’s efforts are also picking up. Vice President Biden will be on the Hill today, meeting with Reid and working on a whip strategy. Tom Daschle and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will reportedly be part of Biden’s lobbying efforts among Senate Democrats.

The first procedural vote — a motion to proceed, which will effectively begin the formal debate — is by no means an easy one. Every Republican is expected to filibuster the vote — they not only oppose reform, they oppose debating reform — meaning that every member of the Democratic caucus will have to at least be willing to take this initial step.

That vote may come as early as Friday, though Saturday is probably more likely.