Leaving August Behind, Democrats Look Ahead, Boost Health Efforts
Democrats are "plotting a comeback" after losing the message war in August, and Sen. Max Baucus says health care reform is still likely this year.
Politico: "Democrats lost the month of August - not just in the polls and at town hall events but also within their own caucus. The question now is whether they can win September ... Or reel in freshmen Democrats such as Reps. Thomas Perriello of Virginia and Betsy Markey of Colorado, both of whom say they will vote against the House bill as written. The comeback for Democrats - if there is one - will begin in an all-important closed-door caucus meeting next week in the basement of the Capitol, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants will try to undo the damage of the August recess and convince their wobbly members that a vote for health care reform will not cost them their jobs in 2010. Leaders say their strategy is to convince members that nothing is set in stone and that they are more than open to negotiations. And they're engaging in a softer sell, prioritizing health insurance reforms while pitching the public option as something that's way, way down the road" (Isenstadt and Kady, 9/1).
The debate among Democrats has exposed regional differences in the caucus, McClatchy Newspapers reports. "Congress' efforts to overhaul the nation's health care system are plagued by an age-old urban-rural, east and west coast vs. the heartland schism in the Democratic Party. The divisions, however, already have affected the issue that appears likely to make or break the progress of health care changes - whether to adopt a 'public option' insurance choice or endorse creation of co-ops to help make the health care system more efficient. A lot of analysts think these differences can be resolved" (Lightman and Douglas, 8/31).
Two Senate Democrats are among those cool to the public option, CBS News reports: "One of those swing voters, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) indicated Sunday on CNN's State of the Union that she may not support a public option. 'I would tend not to,' she said. 'But, we've got to keep working to find solution.' Meanwhile, moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) also indicated he may not be willing to support proposals supported by the party's liberal wing" (Condon, 8/31).
But Baucus - chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee - says health care reform will happen this year, even if Republicans back out of his bipartisan talks, The Associated Press/Examiner reports. "Chances of a bipartisan breakthrough appear to be diminishing in the face of an effective public mobilization by opponents during the August congressional recess." But Baucus says the prospects for a bipartisan deal are still alive and he continues to communicate with key Republicans on the Finance Committee. "'I think the chances are still good,' Baucus told the AP in an interview Monday. 'I talked to them, and they all want to do health care reform. But the sad part is a lot politics have crept in. They are being told by the Republican Party not to participate.'" Baucus added that Democrats might have to resort to the "nuclear" option - budget reconciliation that requires only 51 votes instead of the typical 60 - to pass reform (Gouras, 8/31).