Once more, with feeling

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING…. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans effectively conceded they had no realistic shot at derailing the health care reconciliation package. Their goal would be to (1) push politically inconvenient amendments that could be used in attack ads, and (2) “put a few holes” in the package, so the House would have to vote on health care reform one more time.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) conceded the other day that edit-free approval was still the goal, but “one or two” minor changes might be unavoidable.

Well, guess what.

With the Senate working through an all-night session on a package of changes to the Democrats’ sweeping health care legislation, Republicans early Thursday morning identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions that will require the measure to be sent back to the House for yet another vote, once the Senate adopts it.

Senate Democrats had been hoping to defeat all of the amendments proposed by Republicans and to prevail on parliamentary challenges so that they could approve the measure and send it to President Obama for his signature. But the bill must comply with complex budget reconciliation rules, and Republicans identified some flaws.

As expected, the provisions in question are small and technical, and their removal does not affect the larger reform package in any meaningful way.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told reporters overnight, “We see no impact on the score and very insignificant impact on any policy. This is not going to be a problem.”

Dems hoped to pass the reconciliation measure as-is, so it could be sent directly to the White House for the president’s signature, but after Senate passage, the House will have to make one final vote. Party leaders knew this was a possibility — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) signaled to House members earlier this week that they should plan to stick around, just in case. This morning, Hoyer said House passage of the ever-so-slightly different package wouldn’t be a problem.

As for the Senate, the chamber wrapped up for the night about 2:45 a.m. (ET), and is scheduled to get back to work about two hours from now. Leaders believe the Senate may complete all of its work on the reconciliation measure by mid-day today.