From NBC's Ken Strickland
If you read somewhere that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could start the healthcare debate on Tuesday, here's the real deal: it's technically possible, but highly unlikely.
Reid says he'll bring the bill to the floor next week. But with the bill not even written and with no cost estimate for it from the Congressional Budget Office, that may seem like an overly optimistic view.
Just as important as CBO estimate and the bill language is the still-unresolved issue of whether Reid can muster the 60 votes he'll need to bring the bill to the floor.
But it's worth noting that Reid has taken a significant step that COULD start the debate on Tuesday if all the stars in the sky align.
On Tuesday of last week, before the Veterans Day recess, Reid started the procedural process to get the bill on the floor. (Avert your gaze here if you don't have the stomach for process.)
Since Reid's bill isn't ready, he's using the House-passed healthcare bill as a placeholder of sorts. To make it available for him to bring to the floor, the Senate clerk has to read the title of the bill two times.
But it can only be read one time per day. (It almost sounds like the tag line of a cheap horror flick: "Say his name three times, and he appears.")
Last week, the House bill got its first reading, when Reid said to the clerk, "It is my understanding that HR 3962 (the House healthcare bill) has been received from the House and is now at the desk."
Then the clerk read the title of the bill -- JUST the title -- for the first time. That's enough to count as the "first reading" on the boards.
Reid is expected to call for a second reading on Monday. So on Tuesday, if he so chose, Reid could ask for "the motion to proceed" to the House healthcare bill.
This is the much-discussed first vote for which Reid currently lacks the votes to break an expected filibuster before debate can begin.
There is really no serious expectation that Reid would move to the House bill without first having his Senate bill ready to go. The Senate bill (with the public option/opt-out) would likely be the first amendment offered "in the form of a substitute," essentially throwing out the House version.
What does it all mean? Not too much.
Simply, Reid is greasing the skids to bring the bill to the floor. Once Reid's bill is ready to go -- anytime after Tuesday -- Reid could attempt to start the debate in earnest. But Democratic aides say that's likely to be later next week.