Senate moves to speed up budget debate

Looking for a deal to avoid a government shutdown, Senators agreed Wednesday night to officially start debate on a House-passed bill to fund the government, as Democrats offered a plan that would not include language to block funding for the Obama health law.

“We’ll be back tomorrow hoping that we can even speed things up a little more than what the rules require,” Reid said.

As of now, a cloture vote on the stop gap budget bill would occur on Friday morning, but Reid was making clear that vote could take place on Thursday, which would give the House more time to figure out its next move.

Earlier, the Senate had voted 100-0 to shut off debate on the question of whether to even start debate on the House version of a temporary budget bill; that came an hour after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had finished a 21 hour 19 minute speech in which he implored Senators to accept a prohibition on money going to implement Obamacare.

That House plan would fund the government through December 15, and most notably includes provisions blocking money for the Obama health law.

The Democratic plan laid down by Reid on Wednesday evening would shorten the funding measure to November 15, and does not include any restrictions on money for the Obama health reforms.

Reid also took another expected parliamentary step, to “fill the tree” to block any amendments to the plan.

For those who aren’t familiar with that maneuver, it is a common move by a Majority Leader to block others from offering amendments to the bill, allowing the majority party to completely control the debate.

Reid filled the tree with five amendments:

+ Amendment #1974, which is the text of the Democratic stop gap budget plan.

+ Amenmdent #1975, which is a second degree amendment to that measure.

+ Amendment #1976, a motion to commit the House-passed bill with instructions.

+ Amendment #1977, an amendment to the instructions in #1976

+ And a second degree amendment #1978.

The Majority Leader also filed cloture, which would set up a Friday morning vote to shut off debate on the bill; as mentioned above, that time frame could be accelerated with another deal.

Part of the reason that both parties want to move more quickly in the Senate on this bill is that it will give more time to House GOP Leaders to come up with their own game plan.

As I wrote yesterday, “the fix is in” – it wouldn’t surprise me to see final action on this bill by Friday in the Senate.

Stay tuned.