Here ‘Til Christmas? Republicans Differ On Whether To Run Out The Health Care Clock

December 21, 2009 8:00 am

Apparently not all Republicans think the most fruitful use of their time is delaying a final vote on health care reform. Early this afternoon, Republicans filed into a caucus meeting just off the Senate floor to discuss whether it makes sense to require Democrats to run out the clock, as is their right under Senate rules, or to cede back some time so that members can go home early.

Filing in, though, Republicans I spoke with seemed to think it would be best to stick around for the long haul.

Among Republicans, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been the most adamant that the minority use all of the tools at its disposal–maximize the number of filibusters, and make sure they last as long as possible–to delay (or forestall) a final vote.

In a brief interview with TPMDC, Coburn said he will make sure the Senate stays in session until the last possible moment. “No, there’s no chance,” he told me.

Coburn said he would object if Democrats asked for unanimous consent to hold health care votes in more rapid succession.

Complicating factors for members is that they have to hold a vote, before the year is out, on raising the country’s debt ceiling. If Republicans refuse to cede back time on health care, that vote will have to happen next week, after a very brief Christmas break. But Coburn says he’s going to force the issue.“Obviously the process around here has been grossly foreshortened,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). “I can understand some of my colleagues are fairly upset at the way the process has gone and I feel they should have a chance to air those concerns.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, definitively, “no, we’re not going to cede back any time. We’re fighting til the bitter end, till hell freezes over and we’re skating on the ice.”

“The longer that the process plays out, it still gives the American people more chance to look at this bill, and the more chance for us to talk to the American people about the bill,” said Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), “because the more we talk to them and the more we tell them the details of the bill, you see the polls, they keep moving more against this bill.”

“Based on last night, I thought a pretty large majority [of Republicans] wanted to take it all the way,” Ensign said.

“I think it takes unanimous consent, and I’m not sure I have any disagreement with staying here,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

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