KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Reform Positions And Personalities: Pelosi, Nelson, Grassley, Harkin, Snowe And McCaskill

News outlets report on some of the major players in the health care debate, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Iowa Sens. Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Politico: Pelosi "now faces perhaps the most defining moment of her career. ... Pelosi must shoulder the main burden of salvaging President Barack Obama's health care reform deal, even as she copes with an uprising among Democratic incumbents terrified by the far-reaching implications of the party's Massachusetts meltdown. If she manages to thread this legislative needle and pass a real health reform bill, the San Francisco Democrat would most likely go down as one the most powerful speakers in history. If she fails, she could be relegated to the crowded ranks of liberals who have aimed high and fallen flat" (Thrush, 1/21).

Lincoln Journal Star: "Massachusetts voters sent a message that needs to be heeded by both political parties, Sen. Ben Nelson said Wednesday. People are frustrated with the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, which has led to a dysfunctional government that's 'not working together for them,' Nelson said. Democrats need to make 'a renewed effort to work across the political aisle,' Nelson said, but Republicans also have 'a responsibility to engage.' Tuesday's election of Republican Scott Brown ... does not end the need for health care reform, Nelson said" (Walton, 1/20).

Des Moines Register: "Iowa Sens. Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin agree Democrats in Congress should step back and regroup before proceeding with health care legislation. But each senator says the other's party will determine how collaborative the way forward on the thorny issue will be. … In a Des Moines Register interview, Harkin urged his party: 'Don't panic.' Instead, he said, Democrats should continue pursuing a broad expansion of health care availability. … Grassley, a senior Republican, said the Democrats' loss Tuesday means that they must reach out to Republicans or risk losing their chance at passing any health care measure" (Beaumont, 1/21).

Politico in a separate story: Snowe "once spurned, seems less than enthusiastic about renewing the relationship" with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "She said Wednesday that she has no intention of being No. 60 just for the sake of being No. 60 and that a Democratic strategy of trying to pick off a Republican or two to overcome GOP filibusters would lead to 'marginalizing and miniaturizing of the process here in the United States Senate'" (Raju and Cogan, 1/21).

Capitol News Connection reports that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D- Mo., talked about "the possibility of scaling back to a 'smaller' version, McCaskill explains why that's a challenge unto itself:  'I heard somebody say this morning, we'll just do preexisting conditions. Well, you can't do preexisting conditions unless you do a mandate and you can't do a mandate if you can't make insurance affordable. … It's just all inter-related'" (Johnson, 1/21).

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