Harkin promises weekends on healthcare

Nov. 16, 2009 at 2:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The chairman of the Senate committee overseeing healthcare reform said Monday the chamber would meet on weekends in December to pass a bill by Christmas.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, also predicted during an interview on the " Bill Press Radio Show" that the Senate would have the 60 votes needed to call up the healthcare bill this week, The Hill reported.

However, he said senators wouldn't begin working on the legislation until after the Thanksgiving break.

"If the Republicans want to stay here this Saturday and Sunday to read the bill, then let them stay here," Harkin said, noting Democrats would seek "live quorum," where the sergeant at arms requests the presence of all absent senators. "We are planning to do something that would require Republicans to be there 24 hours a day, and if they leave the floor, we'll ask unanimous consent to dispense with the reading, and that'll be the end of it."

The Iowa senator said Democrats expect to hold the first big test vote by Friday on a motion to consider the bill, the Washington publication said.

He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was committed to working through every weekend in December to pass the bill before lawmakers break for the Christmas holiday.

"We're going to be going long days -- I've already talked to Leader Reid about this -- long nights, weekends," Harkin said, "constantly, from then until right before Christmas, when I think we'll have the votes, hopefully, to pass the bill."

Harkin indicated Senate Democrats expect the Congressional Budget Office to release its score of the healthcare reform bill by Tuesday.

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