In Senate, Centrist-Liberal Rift Broader Than Just Public Option
Though the question of whether Democratic leaders would include a public option in the Senate's health reform bill has held the spotlight, a variety of other big issues also remain unresolved, The Hill reports. For instance, "Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat in the upper chamber, said Wednesday that insurance affordability, a controversial excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, whether most employers will be required to offer health benefits, how to raise needed tax dollars and whether to create a federal long-term-care insurance program are the remaining issues." Concessions to liberals on the public plan and other issues have created a rift between the progressive and centrist wings of the party (Young, 10/29).
For instance, centrists oppose the long-term-care insurance program, originally proposed by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and favored by the more liberal House Democratic Caucus, CBS News reports. Seven centrist Democrats signed a letter asking Reid not include that provision in his final bill, because, they say, it will add to the deficit over time (Condon, 10/28).
Thirty senators sent Reid a letter asking him to include a public option, showing the greater weight liberals pull in his caucus, the Wall Street Journal reports. But, ultimately, Reid "needs the support of 60 senators twice -- first in a vote to consider the health bill, then later to approve it. Even some Democrats who oppose the bill in its current shape may support the leader in the initial vote just to get it to the Senate floor. If so, it will kick off a weeks-long debate, including votes on numerous amendments and horse-trading to address the concerns of particular senators" (Bendavid, 10/29).
"As became apparent this week, Reid has secured promises from only most of his 60-member Democratic Conference to vote to begin debating the bill," Roll Call reports. "But aides and Senators this week said Reid is charting the only path he can on health care reform given the rules of the chamber and the Members with whom he is working." One reason for moving ahead without full support "is that it would be nearly impossible to corral all Democrats before the floor amendment process has even begun, considering many Members are inclined to withhold their support to try to influence the final bill" (Pierce and Drucker, 10/29).