The Senate voted after 1 a.m. Friday morning to limit debate on a defense spending bill, in keeping with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s pace to hold a final health care vote on Christmas Eve.
The appropriations bill included must-pass funding to keep the military running as well as other items such as an extension of unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Democrats accused Republicans who were delaying a final vote on the bill of playing politics with the troops.
“Senate Republican leadership has shamelessly turned this into a purely partisan exercise,” Reid said.
But Sen. Jon Kyl argued that Democrats run Congress, and they could have passed a bill to fund the Department of Defense at any time over the past several months.
Sen. Arlen Specter seemed to undercut the argument that the Democratic concerns were all about the troops when he wrote on Twitter, “In session tonight so that we can stay on track to pass health care reform as soon as possible.”
Earlier Thursday night, Democrats became concerned that Republicans would successfully filibuster the spending bill and delay the health care push, but convened a meeting in which anti-war Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, who had intended to oppose the measure, agreed to give his party the necessary votes. Ultimately, the motion passed 63 to 33.
Senate procedure requires 30 hours of debate after a cloture vote, setting up a final vote on the defense bill at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Then Reid will have to file his “managers amendment” — essentially the final version of the health care bill — Saturday in order to be on track to pass legislation on Christmas Eve.
The Hill reports:
The first big test is expected at 1 a.m. Monday, when the Senate would vote on the final changes to the healthcare bill that are packaged in a manager’s amendment. If Reid fails to rally his entire conference for that vote, or offset any defectors with an equal number of Republicans, the game is up and Democrats go home without advancing President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
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