NYT Magazine: Reid Wages Political Battles On Two Fronts
As he's shepherded the sweeping health overhaul plan through the United States Senate, a sometimes "hoarse and hacking," weary Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is also facing a tough reelection fight at home, The New York Times reports in a magazine preview. As he has tried to keep constituents in his native Nevada behind him, Reid has also struggled to keep members of his caucus in line on health reform. In December, for instance, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told a talk show host he would not support the health overhaul plan without significant changes, surprising the Majority Leader. "Reid had spoken with Lieberman two days earlier, and one of Lieberman's top aides participated in the Saturday-afternoon conference call that Reid orchestrates for Democratic senators who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows. 'He double-crossed me,' Reid said stiffly, associates later recounted."
The article goes on to note that "Lieberman was not the only senator in the Democratic caucus complicating Reid's life. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was opposing using government money to pay for coverage of abortions. Maria Cantwell of Washington was balking as well ... And Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, was threatening to bolt over the discarding of the public option, a provision that senators like Lieberman refused to support."
But, even if Reid succeeds in holding together the fragile 60-vote coalition that approved a reform plan on Christmas Eve, he "has another battle waiting at home: to save his seat in the Senate." And, his work in Washington is not helping that second battle. As Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "He's shown a lot of loyalty to his party and to his caucus to his detriment, and I admire that" (Nagourney, 1/12).
Some news reports are already running with quotes emerging from the Times story. CBS News reports, the anecdote about Reid's perception that Lieberman "double-crossed" him "illustrates the struggle Democrats have faced keeping their party unified behind their massive health care reform proposal. The struggle continues as House and Senate Democrats meet behind closed doors to merge their two bills" (Condon, 1/13).
Politico adds: "Leiberman is pushing back hard - and to make his case, he's provided Politico with a private letter he wrote setting out his concerns before he aired them on national TV." The Lieberman camp has said the Connecticut senator "does not believe Sen. Reid would say the words attributed to him," and provided a letter dating to three days before Lieberman's talk-show appearance. The letter raises concerns about the proposed Senate bill, "but stops short of explicitly saying he would vote against it," according to Politico (Thrush, 1/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.