Clinton Rallies Senators To Pass Health Reform, Timeline Becomes Key
The New York Times: "Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Tuesday that he expected to bring major health care legislation to the floor next week and to complete work on the bill before Christmas." Others said that timeline is unlikely as the Senate waits for a score on the bill by the Congressional Budget Office. Aides told The Times that much uncertainty remains but that Reid "was aiming to vote on bringing the bill to the floor before the Senate leaves for Thanksgiving" (Herszenhorn, 11/10).
USA Today: "With less than seven weeks left on its calendar, the Senate timeline to start debate is uncertain. Even if the chamber passes a bill, lawmakers will have to work out differences with the House proposal, including how to pay for billions of dollars in new subsidies to help families buy coverage" (Fritze, 11/10).
Reid has started the process by putting the bill on the official Senate calendar, Roll Call reports. "Once on the calendar, a motion to proceed - a procedural tool used to start debate - to the bill can be called the next legislative day." Republicans are preparing a filibuster. "The CBO score is expected by the end of this week, but once Reid sees the estimate, he may seek tweaks to the bill that could delay the final score, aides acknowledged" (Pierce, 11/10).
CQ Politics: "Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , D-Ill., cautioned that Democratic leaders will not schedule a vote until they know they have the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and move onto the bill. 'I want to make sure we have 60 votes committed before we go to the floor, and that's what we're working on,' Durbin said. .... Durbin acknowledged that it is unlikely a House-Senate conference could finish work in time for Congress to send a final measure to President Obama this year, as the White House had hoped and Democrats had initially promised" (11/10).
The Las Vegas Sun reports that Reid doesn't have the margin of error House Democrat leaders did in the lower chamber. "Put another way: (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi lost almost one in seven of her lawmakers. But Reid cannot afford to lose one in 60" (Mascaro, 11/11).
CongressDaily: "Meanwhile, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., said he and some senators, whom he declined to name, are working on an alternative public option if Reid cannot garner the 60 necessary votes for the public option that will allow states to opt out. ... In states where private insurers are not offering affordable coverage, Carper said the alternative would set up a non-profit board, likely appointed by the president, to offer insurance" (Friedman, 11/10).
In related action, former President Bill Clinton visited the Senate yesterday.
The Washington Post reports that Clinton evoked his own history on health care reform and said: "The worst thing to do is nothing." He reminded them of "the grim consequences of the failed reform effort 15 years ago, when he was in office: Democrats lost control of Congress in that year's midterm elections, health-care costs skyrocketed, and the rate of Americans without insurance continued to rise." Clinton told senators that it wasn't important to be perfect, but that it's important to act (Murray, 11/11).
The Wall Street Journal: Senators also said that Clinton told them that health reform needs to get done now. "'Getting this done this year will in effect clear the table and allow the focus to be on jobs,' said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)" (Bendavid and Adamy, 11/11).
CBS News: Clinton's "'number one message is you have to succeed,' Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the meeting, (CBS News) reports. 'You cannot fail in this effort, and I think the membership was inspired by it'" (Condon, 11/10).
In a separate story, The New York Times reports: "Senators said Mr. Clinton did not drill down into minute policy details, often a favorite pastime, and instead stuck to the big picture, urging lawmakers to get the bill adopted." Clinton said: "The worst thing to do is to keep dragging around a 16.5 percent of G.D.P. health care system that doesn't sent cover everybody - doesn't get the right results - and do so much better" (Stolberg and Herszenhorn, 11/10).