The health care debate has come down to the wire, with just weeks left for Congress to meet their Christmas deadline for reform. While it is almost certain President Obama will have to wait until next year before getting to sign any health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at least has a chance to get a bill out of his chamber before the year is up. The Senate kicks off what will surely be an epic health care debate on Monday.
There is little to report out of the House of Representatives this week; after the House passed a health care bill earlier this month, it has been waiting for the Senate to do the same. After the Senate passes its own bill, the two chambers can move onto step four and reconcile their two reform packages.
Below is CBSNews.com's weekly chart showing the progress Congress is making on the six major steps needed to complete to pass a health care reform bill:
More on the progress of health care legislation from the Senate and the White House:
One of the top concerns for moderates and conservatives continues to be the costs the bill will impose on the government and consumers. To allay some of those concerns, supporters of the bill are issuing to congressmen this week a new analysis from a leading MIT economist who predicts Reid's bill would lower the cost of insurance for people buying on the individual market. The study comes ahead of another analysis expected to be released this week by the Congressional Budget Office, which should show the bill's impact on premiums in small-group and large-group markets, as well as the individual market.
The debate over cost and other issues could go on for weeks, depending on how many amendments are introduced, and the GOP will surely try to prevent a final vote on the bill with a filibuster. Reid will have to keep the debate open, however, until he can ensure all 60 members of the Democratic caucus are ready to vote in favor of ending the filibuster -- or until he has the support, perhaps, of 59 or 58 Democrats and one or both of the moderate Republican senators from Maine.
The Democratic party will have to reconcile its own differences over issues like the abortion language in the bill, or whether or not to include a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option." Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats, said last week he will remain "stubborn" in his opposition to the public option.
The Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid highlights some of the amendments both Democrats and Republicans are expected to offer in the debate.
Reid will have some control over the debate, with the ability to block amendments if he chooses to do so, or to keep the Senate in session for 24 hours a day to discourage Republicans from introducing pointless amendments. On CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin predicted the Senate would pass a bill with a public option that states could choose to opt out of, as Reid has proposed.
Outside interest groups will continue to try to influence the debate as well. A coalition of abortion rights groups will head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a "day of action" to lobby against the so-called Stupak Amendment, which was added to the House health care bill. The amendment would restrict insurance coverage for abortions, and abortion rights activists are pressuring Democrats to keep it out of the Senate bill.
Politico reports that Harry Reid will "get backing from war rooms on Capitol Hill and in the White House, where operatives with a coordinated strategy stand ready to amplify the floor debate."
Reports last week said President Obama assigned a blog post from the Atlantic's Ron Brownstein, which praises the Senate health care bill, as required reading for all White House staff working on health care.
The White House has been working furiously on the issue behind the scenes all year, and the Associated Press reported last week exactly with whom. Administration officials have met with hundreds of lobbyists and others involved in the debate this year, the AP reported after obtaining 575 visitor records from the White House.