Landrieu ‘Leaning Towards’ Voting For Senate Health Bill Debate, Nelson Will Vote With Dems
Democrats are wondering whether Majority Leader Harry Reid will be able to muster the 60 votes needed to move the health reform bill into floor debate.
Reuters: One of three wavering U.S. Senate Democrats said on Friday he would vote to start the chamber's healthcare debate, bolstering the chances for a broad reform bill one day before its first crucial test. Senator Ben Nelson said he would support a procedural motion on Saturday to allow debate on healthcare reform to proceed, moving Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid closer to the 60 votes he needs to overcome Republican opposition. Nelson said he is still uncertain whether he will support the final legislation but he wants a 'full and open' debate. If approved in Saturday's 8 p.m. (ET) vote, the debate would start on November 30" (Whitesides, 11/20).
The Associated Press Nelson issued a statement Friday ending any lingering public suspense about his intentions. 'The Senate should start trying to fix a health care system that costs too much and delivers too little for Nebraskans,' he said" ... Nelson had been publicly signaling his intentions for more than a week, and his words presumably came as no surprise to Reid or the White House, which issued a statement Friday saying the bill 'provides the necessary health reforms that the administration seeks'" (Espo, 11/20)
Politico: "Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Friday night that she's 'leaning towards' voting to start debate on the health care bill which would leave Democrats just a single vote shy of clearing a critical test for the reform package on Saturday. Asked outside the Capitol if she's made up her mind on starting the debate, Landrieu said she planned to announce her intentions Saturday but told POLITICO, 'I'm leaning towards it.' That would mean Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hopes for a successful vote hinge on one senator: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who remained mum about her intentions as the clock ticked down to the critical vote. Lincoln told POLITICO Friday afternoon that she has no timetable to make her decision ahead of the vote, scheduled for 8 p.m. 'I was told I have time to make my decision,' Lincoln said" (Budoff Brown, 11/20).
The Hill: "'I would say I'm still neutral,' said Landrieu ... Among Landrieu's outstanding concerns is her view that the bill would not offer adequate assistance to workers at small-business or to the self-employed. Specifically, Landrieu, who chairs the Small Business Committee, said that self-employed people should get the same tax-free treatment of health insurance enjoyed by workers who get health benefits from their employers. In addition, she wants to see the effective date for the assistance in the bill moved up from 2014" (Young, 11/20).
Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that "Throughout Friday, Republicans and Democrats took to the floor to make their cases, alternating between calling for an open debate on [Reid's] bill and denouncing it as an expensive expansion of the federal government. As part of Democrats' efforts to tamp down GOP resistance to the bill, the Democratic National Committee on Friday sent out a flurry of press releases, using its e-mail list to contradict floor speeches and televised comments made by Republicans throughout the day and evening" (Stanton, 11/20).
CNN reports that Senate Democrats are slamming Republicans "as leaders of a counterproductive party of fear caught in an obstructionist mindset dating back to the New Deal" for opposing their health care reform bill" (11/20).
Republicans struck back, the Los Angeles Times reports. "'Time after time, I have advocated putting partisan difference aside,' Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) said this morning. 'The majority drafted a flawed bill that spends too much, does too little to cut healthcare costs and puts senior benefits on the chopping block'" (Muskal, 11/20).