Health Debate Bears Down On SenatorsThe Los Angeles Times: "As one of the few senators undecided on healthcare reform, Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln faces a huge headache. Liberals attack her as an obstructionist, even though she cast a key vote keeping the effort alive. Republicans are lining up to run against her -- seven, so far, and counting. The voters here at home seem conflicted, if not downright confused. ... Of the holdouts, Lincoln may be the most politically vulnerable. "She's getting it from both sides," said Carmie Henry, a Democratic veteran of Arkansas politics. Unhappy with her fence-sitting, the liberal group Moveon.org has targeted Lincoln with demonstrations, radio spots and mailers urging her to support the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private companies. TV ads are set to begin Monday. Perhaps more worrisome, one and possibly two Democrats may jump into the primary and challenge Lincoln from the left. Republicans, meantime, have pounded Lincoln almost daily in news releases and Internet advertising" (Barabak, 11/23).
The Washington Post reports on lawmakers' stance on taxing medical device makers: "Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a liberal from the Northeast, warned that the tax could undermine companies developing 'new technology that saves lives and money.' Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a conservative from the Midwest, cautioned that the tax would 'harm our districts' economies, impede innovation and ultimately deny access to lifesaving medical devices.' Because their politics rarely align, the shared opposition underlined something else Kerry and Sensenbrenner have in common: millions of dollars of family wealth invested over the years in the companies that make medical devices."
"Growing investments on Capitol Hill, such as those in the medical-device industry, raise questions about appearances of conflict. Even if lawmakers have done nothing wrong, ethics specialists said, such apparent conflicts are troubling because it is often impossible to know whether the lawmaker is acting in the interest of citizens or their own portfolios. ... The uncertainty created about lawmakers' motivation undermines confidence in Congress and the political process, the specialists say. More than half of all lawmakers own stock" (O'Harrow, Kindy and Keating, 11/23).
NPR reports on divisions among Senate Democrats, noting: "To help bridge that divide, President Obama has recruited Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota and one-time nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services." NPR interviewed Daschle who spoke about the Senate's vote Saturday: "We really crossed an extraordinary threshold last night. And with the passage of the cloture vote, I am at least as encouraged as I have been all year long that this is now within our reach. This is certainly doable, and I think we're going to get it done" (Raz, 11/22).
The Anchorage Daily News reports on state senators' position on the public option: "A day after Alaska's senators voted against each other on health care reform, both said that plans to offer people the option to buy government-run health insurance won't survive the upcoming Senate fight as written. ... Unlike a handful of centrist senators who have indicated they won't support health care reform that includes a public option, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said it's not a deal-breaker. ... Begich said the proposal needs to be tweaked through an amendment process that should begin when senators return from their Thanksgiving recess, but the reforms will shield small business owners from crippling health care costs and ultimately lower the national deficit" (Hopkins, 11/22). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.