Lawmakers Face Political Challenges As They Return To Health Overhaul Chores
During the holiday vacation, some Democratic lawmakers appeared to waver on health reform, faced with "tepid public support" for their proposal and "mounting electoral angst for the party," Politico reports. "But through it all - and through what is expected to be multiple near-death experiences for the health care bill in coming weeks - White House and congressional leaders plan to beat back the temptation of 'no' with a hardball argument: Democrats already voted 'yes.' And it would be politically disastrous to flip-flop now" (Brown, 1/12).
Nevertheless, the latest CBS News poll shows President Barack Obama's approval rating for the handling of health care at an all-time low, but Congress both parties fare even worse (Condon, 1/11).
On the home front, "Congressional Democrats are struggling to get out from under the weight of their unfinished work on a health care overhaul and come up with an election-year agenda that will help revive their flagging political fortunes," Roll Call reports. "The Democrats' plan is to wrap work on the reform package - and a number of other knotty items left over from 2009 - as quickly as possible so they can pivot to selling their legislative achievements and teeing up less ambitious, consumer-friendly items" (Newmyer and Pierce, 1/120.
Now that they're coming back to Washington, Democrats are racing to meet Obama's current deadline for sending legislation to his desk, prior to his yet unscheduled State of the Union address, Politico reports separately. "For months, Democrats have said they want to have health care legislation signed into law before the State of the Union address, but intraparty and interchamber disagreements seem to be putting that goal in doubt. At any rate, the Senate seems more confident than the House leadership, which is frustrated that the focus has remained on the Senate version (Frates, 1/12).
For instance, House Democrats with return to Washington with "a growing wish list for a final health care reform deal, despite repeated warnings from Senators that their wiggle room is limited," Roll Call reports separately. "The House Democrats' wish list includes beefing up affordability credits, nixing an insurers' antitrust exemption and shrinking the 'Cadillac' tax on high-cost insurance plans. And in return for agreeing to drop the public insurance option, House Democrats want a national insurance exchange instead of the patchwork of state-run exchanges called for in the Senate bill" (Dennis, 1/12).
CongressDaily reports: "Leaders will meet this afternoon as well and have laid out a handful of priorities. But the order of importance and just how hard they will push for some provisions in their bill is expected to become clearer after today's meetings, a senior leadership aide said" (Edney, 1/12).