Senate Democrats Brace For Heavy Health Reform Work
The Hill reports that "Democratic leaders sent out a notice Monday morning alerting senators that when the chamber returns to session after the Thanksgiving holiday, 'roll call votes could occur at any time during the day and evening, with weekend sessions likely.'" The health bill is also likely to affect work on a climate change bill and some senators' plans to go to the climate summit in Copenhagen (Bolton, 11/23).
CongressDaily: "Senate Majority Leader (Harry) Reid still aims to pass a healthcare overhaul bill by Christmas, even if it means keeping the chamber in session for most of its holiday break next month." For his part, Reid and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin have indicated some willingness to forgo their proposal to allow states to opt out of a government-run public option for health coverage in favor of one that would be triggered in states that "fail to meet a yet-determined affordability standard" in order to win more senators' votes (Edney and Friedman, 11/23).
The Associated Press: "Failure is not an option on health care, a leading Democratic senator said Monday, even as Republicans turned up the heat on moderates who hold the fate of the legislation in their hands." The AP reports that Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "'We're not going to not pass a bill,' ... With or without Republican support, Democrats will get it done" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/23).
ABC News reports that Reid has to balance the numbers and opinions of senators that won't vote for a health reform bill without a government option in it and those that won't vote for one with a government option. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she won't even talk about including a trigger in the House's legislation. "'A trigger is an excuse for not doing anything,' she said" (Karl, 11/23).
In a separate story, CongressDaily reports that centrists are getting hammered by ads from both sides, including Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.; Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; and Mary Landrieu, D-La. "The Republican National Committee is up with a Web ad today accusing each of betraying different principles by voting to advance healthcare legislation." Other groups like Health Care For America Now are thanking senators for their health reform votes including Lincoln and fellow Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. HCAN, however, is attacking Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb. for opposing the bill (Hunt, 11/23).
Roll Call: "Senate Democrats sought to push back Monday against GOP charges that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) $848 billion health care bill is a costly expansion of the federal government, maintaining the bill will help cut the deficit while reining in costs. 'Contrary to what we've heard from some of our opponents, the bill is going to actually help with our deficit,' Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said on a conference call, touting a letter that a group of economists sent to lawmakers Monday praising the measure" (Stanton, 11/23).
The Hill reports in a separate story that side deals in the House are stacking up as health reform moves along. "Before Rep. Joseph Cao (La.) cast the lone Republican vote for the healthcare bill in the House, he secured assurances from President Barack Obama to work on Medicaid funding, loan forgiveness and issues related to two of his local hospitals." Others also won "carve-outs for their state's health care systems," The Hill reports (Soraghan, 11/23).
Despite the movement of health reform legislation, President Obama's approval ratings are slipping, The Christian Science Monitor reports. "The Senate vote on Saturday to debate healthcare reform gave Mr. Obama a momentary victory, but he's got weeks of haggling ahead and probably more than a few 'perils of Pauline' moments to keep reform prospects alive" (Feldmann, 11/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.