Easter is the new Thanksgiving

EASTER IS THE NEW THANKSGIVING…. Those who’ve followed the debate over health care reform for a while have probably noticed that deadlines haven’t always been met. President Obama, you may recall, wanted to see the House and Senate pass their bills before their August recess last year.

For a while, there was talk of getting reform done by Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. The State of the Union was considered a backstop, too, right before the unpleasantness in Massachusetts.

With health care reform back on the front burner, Jonathan Cohn notes today that a schedule is starting to come together, and citing reporting from Inside Health Policy‘s Julian Pecquet and Amy Lotven, it looks completion by Easter is the new goal.

The gist is pretty simple: The House takes up the Senate bill and passed it by March 19. A few days later it passes a reconciliation bill and sends it over to the Senate, which starts the voting process on March 26.

It’s a “process” because, even though the reconciliation process limits debate to 20 hours, it doesn’t limit amendments. And Republicans have warned they plan to introduce an amendment, forcing Democrats to take difficult votes, for as long as they can.

Of course, the Senate is scheduled to take a two-week break for Easter and Passover. Republicans won’t be able to literally filibuster the budget fix, but there’s talk of them offering literally hundreds of meaningless amendments, just to bring the legislative process to a halt. In this case, however, if Democratic leaders can stick to this schedule, delays will only interfere with a planned recess — which even Republicans will want to take advantage of.

With this in mind, the timeline seems quite sound. Now all Dems have to do is figure out how to secure a House majority for the Senate bill, agree to the terms of a House-Senate compromise, get that compromise through the House, bring that identical compromise to the Senate floor, and pass it before Congress’ spring break begins.

Piece of cake, right?

For what it’s worth, the timeline reform proponents are eyeing is consistent with Republicans’ expectations, too. This morning, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told Fox News he, too, expects final votes on health care immediately before the Easter/Passover recess.

We should know more tomorrow, after President Obama’s presentation on the way forward. Stay tuned.