WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the clock ticking on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s self-imposed Christmas deadline for a vote on health care reform legislation, Senate staffers have been told to prepare to work all day this Saturday and possibly every weekend thereafter until Santa Claus comes to town.
Weekend work in the Capitol isn’t unheard of — the vote to begin debate on health care came on a Saturday last month, for example — but it’s not frequent. During a typical week, senators arrive in Washington sometime Monday and leave late Thursday or early Friday, depending on when the last votes are. And Senate leaders often threaten the occasional Saturday if work isn’t done fast enough.
But this time, the threats may not be so empty. Several Senate sources said today that the only way a health care bill has a chance of getting passed by Christmas is if the Senate meets every weekend until it does. And that means canceling or not scheduling every prospective event in Minnesota that Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken would otherwise attend, given the likelihood that they’ll be in Washington for votes on potentially hundreds of amendments to the health care bill.
“You can’t be in two places at once,” Klobuchar spokeswoman Erikka Knuti said, adding that if there is a free weekend Klobuchar would return home to Minnesota.
As of now, both senators’ offices have kept their weekend schedules clear through Christmas.
“It’s always tough to set a schedule that you may have to cancel, and Al hates to disappoint the folks who are waiting to meet with him in Minnesota,” said Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh. “But we’re talking about national health care reform, and this debate is so important for Minnesota that he’s certainly happy to be here doing his job. “