Senators Prepare For Upcoming Health Reform Battles
The Wall Street Journal reports that, in a party-line vote Saturday night, "Democratic leaders finally moved their sweeping health bill to the Senate floor, where wheeling and dealing over major unresolved and divisive issues likely will shape the legislation before its next big test." Some centrists are busy saying they won't support a bill with a government-run public option in it. They are also divided over abortion. And, "Another growing concern even as the bill progresses is the political heat on Democrats over expanded government spending amid rising unemployment and deficit concerns." The vote paves the way for three weeks of debate "and perhaps more in January, a struggle that is sure to color the 2010 fight for control of Congress" (Hitt and Adamy, 11/23).
McClatchy Newspapers: "They all voted yes Saturday, saying they were motivated by a desire to let debate proceed, but many Democrats still had qualms." Major flashpoints in the bill also include budget deficits and affordability. "Despite all these controversies, Democratic leaders said that near-universal coverage legislation, a goal of party leaders since the 1940s, has now proceeded further than ever before" (Lightman, 11/22).
And now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is faced with the task of getting the Democrats to stick together as the bill undergoes changes before a final vote, Roll Call reports. "Reid added that he is mindful that not all Democrats agree on the underlying substance of the bill, including over whether it should include a public insurance option to compete with private insurers. 'We've got some things to work out, but we're going to get a bill,' he said." Reid said moderate Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., plans to work with "Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) on a 'public option that's acceptable to all Democrats'" (Pierce, 11/23).
The Christian Science Monitor: "In discussions with Senator Reid, Senator Landrieu won more than $100 million to help her state, still reeling from hurricane Katrina, to help pay for healthcare for the poor. Yet her support remained tepid. To rally all 60 members of the Democratic caucus for the first key procedural vote on this legislation Saturday was an epic challenge for Reid, who faces his own tough reelection race next year" (Russell Chaddock, 11/22).
The Associated Press reports that Schumer said Monday morning that Democrats are ready to move with or without Republicans to advance their health bill. "'We prefer to go at it with Republicans if we can reach compromises in some areas,' said (Schumer) 'But we're not going to not pass a bill.' Schumer dueled with Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on a network morning news show ... (she) argued that "you're going to put taxes and mandates on business" that would be a drag on an economy still struggling to recover from recession" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/23).
The Los Angeles Times: "With the Senate's 60-39 vote to proceed to debate, after Thanksgiving, on a healthcare bill that the president is seeking by year's end, the debate of the 2010 midterm elections has been joined." Democrats, who control Congress and the White House, "will present the congressional elections as a question of fulfilling an agenda of progress and change and keeping 'the party of no,' ... in check. Republicans will frame the midterms as a chance to reclaim at least part of Congress from a party trying to take over not just healthcare and imposing big government, big spending and taxation on every aspect of life" (Silva, 11/22).
Finally, Politico reports on the filibuster and the Senate health bill. "Filibusters are far more common than most realize (b)ut instead of the spectacular verbal endurance tests senators now use 'silent filibusters,' in which the opposition announces its intent to filibuster a bill, thereby forcing the party in power to assemble a 60-40 supermajority in order to move forward - even if no one is actually standing up on the floor to stop them." Politico included a photo from the classic film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" (Coller, 11/23).