Despite Senate Health Care Victory, Democrats Face Bumpy Road Ahead
Sunday news talk programs were full of lawmakers looking ahead to the next few weeks of Senate debate on a sweeping health care bill.
Los Angeles Times: "Only a day after Senate Democrats voted to move into a historic debate on overhauling the nation's healthcare system, key centrists made it clear today that the party is still a long way from delivering on its promise to provide near-universal insurance coverage and contain medical costs. Faced with the prospect of Republican filibusters, Democratic leaders must deliver the same kind of total unity they managed to achieve in Saturday's vote to begin debate: Every Democratic senator, plus two independents who caucus with them, supported the key procedural motion. But several of those senators spoke out today to say that they will not support the healthcare bill itself unless major changes were made" (Barnes, 11/22).
The Associated Press: "Senate Democrats on Sunday sparred with each other over how to fix the nation's troubled health care system, the moderates threatening to scuttle legislation if their demands weren't met and the more liberal members warning their party leaders not to bend. The dispute among Democrats foretells of a rowdy floor debate next month on legislation that would extend health care coverage to roughly 31 million Americans. Republicans have already made clear they aren't supporting the bill" (Flaherty, 11/22).
The New York Times: The morning after voting to commence debate on ground-breaking health care legislation, two centrist senators, Ben Nelson and Joseph I. Lieberman, said on Sunday that they were opposed to the bill as it is currently written, particularly its inclusion of a new government-run insurance program. Mr. Nelson, the Nebraska senator who voted with his fellow Democrats to start debate sometime after Thanksgiving, said that he was opposed to the bill's insistence on a so-called public option - a government insurance plan that would compete with private firms to offer coverage for uninsured Americans. While the bill gives states the right to opt out of a public option, Senator Nelson said he would only support a bill that required states to opt in ... he said in an appearance on ABC's 'This Week With George Stephanopoulos'" (Berger, 11/22).
CongressDaily: "'If the public option is still in there, the only resort I have is to say 'no' at the end,' Lieberman said today, noting amendments face difficulty passing because they will likely require 60 votes. Nelson said the opt-out is one of 'a whole host' of provisions that could cause him to oppose cloture if not altered. Such objections mean Reid appears unlikely to win 60 votes without significant changes to his bill. Many Democrats are eyeing a compromise deal, which could potentially pick up a few Republicans, where a public option would automatically be triggered in states that fail to meet a still undetermined affordability standard. .... But Senate liberals continue to threaten any changes to the opt-out, noting they have already compromised on the public option. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reiterated that view this morning on CNN, though he says he is not drawing 'lines in the sand'" (Friedman, 11/22).
Reuters: "The 'public option' component of the bill is negotiable, Senator Richard Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said on NBC on Sunday, adding the Senate bill 'must' get passed by the end of 2009. If it goes into 2010, with other issues such as financial regulation reform and mid-term elections vying for attention, 'it gets more complex,' he said. 'We're anxious to get it done'" (Drawbaugh, 11/22).
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that "Sens. Chuck Schumer (D.N.Y.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) sparred over the provision inserted into the healthcare bill that some say was crucial in attracting centrist Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) key vote on Saturday night's procedural motion. Republicans have questioned an addition to the bill that provides for $100 million in extra Medicare subsidies for 'certain states recovering from a major disaster.' Landrieu's state of Louisiana, of course, was hit by Hurrianes Katrina and Rita in 2005. GOPers have dubbed the provision the 'new Louisiana Purchase' saying it helped buy off Landrieu's vote. But Schumer, who is the Senate Democratic Caucus vice chairman, credited the funds to Landrieu's exceptional legislative ability [on CBS' 'Face the Nation]" (Fabian, 11/22).