From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell
Senior Senate aides from both parties say there is a closed-door bipartisan meeting today with the Senate parliamentarian.
The focus of the meeting is a Republican claim that the entire House reconciliation bill "is out of order" because Republicans say the bill violates a requirement for use of reconciliation under the Budget Act. That requirement states the measure cannot affect Social Security revenue. Republicans say the bill does. The Parliamentarian would make the call.
Other "rolling meetings" are expected about various provisions within the House package to determine if they meet the criteria for use of the reconciliation voting method. The parliamentarian is a civil servant appointed by the majority who advises the Senate and interprets rules and procedures.
The parliamentarian has been meeting with both parties separately for weeks as they prepared for this next phase of the debate.
Democratic aides say they expect to offer few, if any, amendments. Democrats will strongly encourage their members to vote down any GOP amendments -- even those that may be crafted to appeal to Democrats. Aides say that's why Senate Democrats wanted the president to postpone his trip and not leave after a victory in the House. They say the president may be needed to work the phones on the Senate side, too.
This will be a chess game with Democrats saying they are "comfortable where they are," but ready to use the rule book to blunt GOP attempts. Aides say they expect something "politically mischievous" from Republicans -- like an amendment adding a "public option" government-run insurance. That would be a hard "no" vote for some Democrats. Aides say they will urge their members to resist what could be amendments "crafted for 30-second attack ads."
Republicans are keeping their strategy "close to the vest," but say they expect at least one change to the bill, which would require another House vote. Republicans say the process of repeated votes is arduous, and Democrats might find themselves having to vote no on "the puppy protection act."
The Senate cannot act until the president signs the bill, which is expected tomorrow. Some aides hope to complete the process by the end of the week which could spill into the weekend. The Senate is due to take a two week recess for Passover/Easter Friday.