Democrats Endure Political Anxieties As Health Talks Continue
"President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats stand within days if not hours of striking final deals on historic health care legislation after key labor unions won concessions and pledged their support," The Associated Press reports. "Dozens of issues still needed to be finalized to reconcile bills passed separately by the House and Senate, but several lawmakers said that in the wake of the deal on the insurance plan tax, they felt a logjam had been broken" (Werner, 1/15).
Democrats have several reasons to complete their legislation in a hurry, before what the White House sees as a "window of opportunity" closes, The Washington Post reports. Democrats hope to complete the bill in the next few weeks so Obama can claim it as an accomplishment during his first State of the Union address, expected by early February at the latest. And perhaps more pressing, a tight Senate race in Massachusetts could strip Democrats of their 60th vote, the number required to block a Republican filibuster (Montgomery and Shear, 1/15).
In addition, the slow pace of the health-overhaul debate is sapping some Democrats' electoral prospects in the November election, Politico reports. "In an emotional talk with other Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee this week, North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy said the protracted debate is hurting him so badly back home that he might as well retire if it drags on much longer." Later in an interview with Politico, Pomeroy said, "We have a number of other issues that haven't been able to get enough attention, because health care is taking up all the floor time, all of the attention. We need to move on" (Bresnahan and O'Connor, 1/15).
NPR reports, "Obama says he reads the polls, and catches the occasional story on cable TV showing sinking public support for the health care plan. He promised to stand behind his fellow Democrats, in the same way they've stood behind him." He also has argued that voters will like the legislation better after it becomes law and the changes it will make become more clear (Horsley, 1/15).
To allay all of these concerns, "Healthcare overhaul negotiators have set a Friday goal to send a completed package to CBO, although they said deal-making could stretch into Saturday," CongressDaily reports. However, negotiations continue on several areas, which "include a national exchange in the House bill or state-based ones in the Senate version; an implementation date of 2013 like the House bill or 2014 in the Senate measure; and how much federal help people will receive to purchase insurance" (Edney and Cohn, 1/14).