Washington (CNN) – On their first day back from the Thanksgiving break, Harry Reid had a warning for his fellow senators: You can forget about any more down time for a while.
The Senate Majority Leader announced Monday, as the formal floor debate over the legislation crafted by the Senate Democratic leadership got underway, that "nothing can be more important" than the health care reform bill.
"We'll do this work tirelessly," the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. "That may mean debating and voting late at night. It definitely means the next weekends - plural - we'll be working. I have events I'll have to postpone, some I'll have to cancel. There is not an issue more important than finishing this legislation."
The Senate was last in session the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when all 60 members of the Democratic caucus voted to begin debating health care reform in the full chamber. That Saturday vote could just be a taste of what's to come in December.
"We're going to have to work Saturdays and Sundays - as much and as long as we have to," said Reid.
The top Republican in the Senate countered Monday that working overtime on health care reform will jeopardize other important work.
"We have a debt ceiling expiring or needing to be expanded, according to the administration. We've not passed appropriations bill. There are tax extenders that expire at the end of the year. There are Patriot Act provisions that expire at the end of the year," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on the floor of the Senate. "There are many things we must do this month, and yet, we're going to spend an enormous amount of time working on a bill that the American people wish we would not pass this month."