Senate Democrats still hope to pass health care reform by Christmas, but in order to do so, everything will have to go exactly as planned. Given that Republicans have made noise about slowing down the process even further — just a few hours ago, John McCain suggested that it may be appropriate to have more of the bill read on the floor — Democrats are very nervous about the prospects for sticking to their timeline.
And they should be —in part because the Christmas deadline is actually a Saturday night deadline. As Philip Klein explains, if Democrats don't have legislation that can get 60 votes by tomorrow night, it won't be possible to pass health care before Christmas.
In order to trigger the chain of events leading to a Christmas Eve vote, Reid would have to file cloture on his "manager's amendment" — containing all of his final negotiated changes to the bill — by the end of tomorrow.
Once Reid files that amendment, it will set up the key cloture vote on Monday at 1 a.m., requiring the support of 60 Senators to pass. While that would technically give him all of Sunday to win over Sen. Ben Nelson or any remaining holdouts, Reid would not be able to make any further changes to the bill in order to accommodate any Senator.
While a lot of people are focusing on Christmas Eve, the key vote will be that first cloture vote on Monday. If he gets 60 votes on that, the rest of the process will be a mere technicality.
But getting to 60 still poses a challenge. There's still no CBO score, Sen. Ben Nelson is still wrangling over the bill's abortion language, and Sen. Jim Webb announced late last night that he remains undecided. It's entirely possible that the bill could pass, of course, but at this point, I think it's just as likely that the whole thing will fall apart.