Democrats Seem To Gain Momentum On Health Reform, But Face Many Obstacles
As Democratic leaders pursue a go-it-alone strategy on health care, the real test will be whether their caucus can pull together and be effective, according to a Politico analysis. "If Democrats actually meet their Easter deadline on health care - a tall order - and continue to pass piecemeal jobs bills and quell the disgruntled left on any Wall Street reform deals, they will have something to sell a dissatisfied electorate heading into the fall elections." Despite their current momentum, the Democrats have "shown a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" (Kady, 3/2).
NPR: "Of the remaining issues with the potential to bring down the entire health overhaul effort, the one that lawmakers fear most is abortion. Abortion is such a politically hazardous issue that sponsors of both the House and Senate health bills have said their object was to maintain the status quo. But keeping the health bills abortion-neutral has proved impossible. And now the abortion language in the Senate-passed bill in particular could threaten the strategy Democratic leaders hope to use to get a final measure to President Obama's desk for a signature" (Rovner, 3/3).
Politico, in a separate story: "'I don't see members voting for the Senate bill,' said Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who helped author the House version's restrictive language on abortion funding. 'Not only was the bill bad, the process was even worse. ... You're asking an awful lot of members to vote for a bill they don't like.'" Stupak says between 10 and 12 Democrats will vote against a reform measure if "they don't like" the abortion provisions. Meanwhile, some members have urged him to hold back his opposition because "the language on the abortion issue can be fixed later, when the insurance exchanges go into effect." Stupak so far has not accepted that compromise (Budoff Brown and O'Connor, 3/2).
Another hazard is a matter of timing. "Democrats' final push on healthcare reform has become a game of chicken between the House and Senate," The Hill reports. "Lawmakers are at an impasse over who should go first, and a lack of trust between Democrats in both chambers threatens to derail the effort in the final stretch. This is complicating an effort to use special rules to move the legislation with a simple majority vote in the Senate" (Bolton, 3/2).
Las Vegas Sun: "Many House Democrats, including Nevada Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, do not like the Senate bill. The promise that it will be changed in subsequent legislation and through the reconciliation process brings only scant comfort. Still, as November's midterm elections approach, House Democrats are faced with two unsavory options: pass a bill they may not like or pass nothing at all. ... Republicans are capitalizing on this scenario, gearing up for campaign slogans to match either outcome - Democrats are do-nothings who, with control of the House, Senate and White House, failed to accomplish their goals, or they must answer for passing a health care bill the public has not yet embraced" (Mascaro, 3/3).
Congress Daily: "Feeling that the administration largely neglected them last year during their healthcare push, House Democrats are insisting the White House go to bat for them this time around on the healthcare overhaul as President Obama is scheduled to release another proposal today ... House Speaker Pelosi pressed administration officials Tuesday in a meeting with leadership to line up reinforcements from inside as well as from industry and consumer groups, a Democratic aide said" (Edney, 3/3).