Senate Democrats Wait For CBO Score, Work To Keep Votes
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is planning a "key test vote by the end of the week" on a health reform bill, according to Senate aides, Politico reports. "The vote on a motion to proceed to the bill could come as early as Friday, teeing up the amendment process to begin after the Thanksgiving break." Reid may keep the Senate in session over the weekend (Budoff Brown, 11/17).
Democrats expect to get a CBO score on the bill Tuesday at the earliest, another aide said, which will clear the way for a vote on a motion to proceed, CongressDaily reports (Edney, 11/16).
The CBO score is key to soothing the cost reservations many Senators have, the Detroit Free Press reports. "Of course, depending on the cost of that CBO estimate, Reid may have to tweak it further before bringing it to the floor" (Spangler, 11/16).
The New York Times reports that Washington is waiting to hear what CBO director Doug Elmendorf has to say on the bill. "His detailed analyses - 'scores' in Washington argot - are highly educated guesswork but are more or less the final word, making him a combination oracle and judge on many of the biggest issues of the day." Elmendorf is still working to analyze Reid's bill - one that could "speed the process along, helping Mr. Obama fulfill his hope of signing a bill into law this year" or "could leave the White House and Democrats scrambling" depending on what his office finds (Stolberg, 11/16).
The Wall Street Journal: "Republicans will likely filibuster the 'motion to proceed,' which simply allows the Senate to begin debate. Delaying consideration of the bill until 2010, an election year, could jeopardize its chances and turn the intricacies of the Senate timetable into a political tool for the bill's opponents." Reid needs all 60 votes in the Democratic caucus to begin debate on the bill, but it remains to be seen if he can garner such support. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, is expected to vote for the motion to proceed, according to an aide, though his vote for passage of the bill is unclear (Hitt, 11/17).
The Hill reports that Reid can't afford Democrat defectors on his bill. "Another complicating factor is the health of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has missed more than 130 roll call votes this year. Reid needs every member of his party because Republicans have indicated they will vote en masse against the Democratic legislation. ... Democrats remain divided over key elements yet to be resolved: whether to create a government-run insurance program, how to pay for expanding insurance coverage and how strongly to prohibit federal dollars from paying for abortion services" (Young, 11/16).
One of the centrists being courted is Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., "who has become emblematic of the improbable distance that health-care reform has traveled, and how far it still must go before becoming law," The Washington Post reports. "Hundreds of thousands of Lincoln's constituents are low-income and lack insurance, the very kind of voters expected to benefit under the Senate bill. ... (but) her sometimes uncomfortable role near the center of the debate could cost her in culturally conservative Arkansas. Despite the potential benefits for many in her state, polls show her support weakening, and constituents are expressing doubts about the proposed overhaul" (Murray, 11/17).