Guide to the Senate's consideration of budget/ObamaCare bill

All eyes turn back to the Senate today as the prospects of a shutdown grow greater by the minute.

Here is an overview of what could come next:


The Senate gavels in at 2 p.m. After the chaplain's prayer (the past few days, Senate Chaplain Barry Black has referred to a possible shutdown in his prayers) and the pledge of allegiance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is likely to make remarks. Expect him to repeat what he said in his harsh statement this past Saturday in which he called the House's actions during its rare Saturday session "pointless."

Right now there are no votes scheduled. Here is the official Senate guidance:

"The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00pm on Monday, September 30. Following any leader remarks, the Senate will be in a period of morning business until 5:00pm, with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each. Senators will be notified when any votes are scheduled."


After the House again attached two ObamaCare-related provisions to the continuing resolution (budget bill), at the outset it's important to know that there is no requirement that Reid do anything. That is, he doesn't even have to schedule a vote on what the House passed this weekend. He's been playing hardball this whole time -- making it clear he doesn't intend to entertain a single rider to the CR and refusing to reconvene the Senate any earlier than 2 p.m. today.

The conventional wisdom, however, is that Reid will take advantage of a procedural move that would allow the Senate to kill the House amendments with a simple majority vote. (In the arcane parlance of the Senate this would be moving to "table" a motion to concur with the House amendments.) Because Democrats have 54 senators in their caucus they would obviously have the votes for this. And under the rules to do so would not constitute a "debatable motion" -- meaning that a move to kill the House provisions could NOT be blocked by one senator withholding consent. In other words, Reid can prevent Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee from delaying the process.

Reid's statement over the weekend suggested this is what intends to do. While a majority of senators, including many Democrats, voted earlier this year to repeal the medical device tax -- leading some to speculate the Senate may choose to accept that portion of the House changes while shunning the one-year ObamaCare delay -- if you take Reid at his word that is simply not a possibility. And thus far Reid has stuck to his word.

Here is what Reid said Saturday:

"To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate's clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown."

What does a motion to table look like? Like any other vote, except again it only requires a simple majority. By rule, Reid can move to "table" or kill both House amendments in a single vote so it's expected that is the route he'd take.

Also, if Reid wanted to be really wily he could try to seek unanimous consent to alter the House amendments or disagree with them -- something that presents an opportunity for Republicans to object -- and basically dare the GOP to delay the process as a shutdown looms ever closer.


We'll know more later on in the day. But at this point the bottom line is that Reid has the procedural tools to kill the House amendments and kick back a "clean" CR to GOP House leaders, sticking them with this hot potato once again with just hours left on the clock.