Senate Parliamentarian Wields Authority Over Democrats’ Health Care Efforts
The Associated Press: "When Congress battles over thorny bills, parliamentarian Alan Frumin has been known to sleep in his office - on call 24/7 as the Senate's Solomon, divining the answers. Frumin's ability to review long-standing rules and centuries of precedent to resolve Senate questions makes the mustachioed parliamentarian something of a Washington rock star these days. As much as any elected official, Frumin, 63, holds decisive power over whether the Democrats' rewrite of the health care system survives or sinks. ... It's fame in true Washington fashion as Frumin, an unelected Senate staffer who won't do interviews, wields outsized influence over the fate of President Barack Obama's signature domestic issue, the health care overhaul. ... Several Republicans launched a pre-emptive effort to discredit Frumin's objectivity, a charge that Senate officials said upset him. But Frumin maintained his public silence, and the criticism was short-lived" (Kellman, 3/17).
The New York Times Prescriptions Blog: Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who Obama has lobbied for his vote on the health bill, "voted against the House health care bill in November because he prefers a fully government-run, Medicare-for-all approach. He felt the Democrats' bill simply did not go far enough to eliminate the mostly private, employer-sponsored health insurance system." Kucinich planned to announce how he will vote at a news conference for Wednesday morning at the Capitol (Herszenhorn, 3/16).
Politico: The presidential efforts at persuasion must have worked. Kucinich, "enjoying a rare moment where his vote could be critical on a landmark issue, said Wednesday morning he will vote for the Democratic health care bill, a significant boost from a liberal critic of the legislation" (Hohmann and Kady, 3/17).
The Associated Press/Seattle Times: "U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that she's confident the House will have the votes to pass President Barack Obama's health care legislation, possibly as early as Friday. ... As the White House made a final efforts to get a health care overhaul passed this week, Sebelius looked back critically at the legislation's long path. She said supporters could have done a better job correcting misinformation on 'death panels' and cuts to Medicare. She said foes of health care overhaul worked a strategy designed to scare older Americans, but supporters could have been more aggressive at telling seniors what the package included for them" (Johnson, 3/16).
McClatchy: Rep. Henry Cuellar remains an undecided vote in the health care debate. "But instead of feeling battered and blue, Texas' only Blue Dog Democrat is enjoying the process and pushing for his issues: Medicaid expansion, tort reform and no federal funding of abortion. ... Although Cuellar voted for the House version of the bill, he has enough problems with the Senate version, and what might come out of the House process this week, that he's biding his time. ... Cuellar said he has spoken to [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi - who is looking for every single vote to secure the 216 she needs to pass the health care legislation - but has not gotten any promises or anything in return. ... As a representative for the congressional district with the third highest number of uninsured in the country, Cuellar wants to know details of coverage plans and the costs to the state. He is also concerned about protecting Texas' tort limitations, which he secured in the House version of the bill but which is not part of the Senate version" (Recio, 3/16).
ABC News: "As he headed to the West Wing for a private lunch with President Obama, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine interrupted his lobbying for health care reform and called the issue 'great politics.' ... Kaine told ABC News in an interview he is optimistic and encouraged about a vote later this week to pass reform in the House, although he would not predict a final count. With Capitol Hill swirling with demonstrations by Tea Party activists and opponents of the Democrats' bill, Kaine actually challenged Republicans to make reform an issue in Congressional races this fall" (Compton, 3/16).
The New York Times: Long before the fight over health reform had begun, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, started using his understanding of process and procedure to advance GOP strategy and objectives. "On the major issues - not just health care, but financial regulation and the economic stimulus package, among others - Mr. McConnell has held Republican defections to somewhere between minimal and nonexistent, allowing him to slow the Democratic agenda if not defeat aspects of it. He has helped energize the Republican base, expose divisions among Democrats and turn the health care fight into a test of the Democrats' ability to govern" (Hulse and Nagourney, 3/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.