Congressional Democrats Seek To Maintain Health Overhaul Momentum
The Senate could begin debate next week on a health care reform bill while House Democratic leadership is telling members to prepare to work deep into December.
CQ Politics reports that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "said he hopes the Senate will pass a health care overhaul bill and send the measure to a House-Senate conference committee in time to allow a final vote in both chambers this year." He has "told members that votes are possible the week of Christmas, on Monday, Dec. 21 and Tuesday, Dec. 22" (11/11).
Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate are trying to maintain momentum by putting the overhaul bill on the Senate calendar, The Hill reports. "Such a schedule is intended to show the bill is moving forward - avoiding a repeat of the August recess, when the health care reform movement stalled amid boisterous town hall forums." But, with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approaching, keeping the timeline could prove a large task for the Senate especially. "Once the (Congressional Budget Office) releases its cost analysis of (Majority Leader Harry) Reid's bill within a few days, for example, the Nevada Democrat plans to file the first procedural motion to bring the Senate bill to the floor next week" (Rushing, 11/12).
Fox News reports that Reid still has a hill to climb to get even Democrats to agree to begin debate on the bill. Three "Democrats - Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana - and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have told Reid they want the legislative text of the bill and a final CBO score available online for 72 hours before beginning a debate" (11/11).
Time reports that when debate starts "Reid will have little margin for error along the way. Between those two votes (one to begin debate on the bill and one to pass the bill) will be weeks of deliberations over scores of amendments, many of which will be designed more to produce 30-second attack ads than to influence the actual shape of the legislation" (Tumulty, 11/11).
And The Wall Street Journal reports on political strategies that will be implemented during a short break to mark Veterans Day. Conservative groups "are using the recess - one week for the House and three days for the Senate - to press lawmakers to vote no on the health-care overhaul plans." Democrats are also trying to be as proactive with their message after "getting caught flat-footed this summer when groups opposing the plans packed town-hall meetings" (Bendavid and Radnofsky, 11/12).
USA Today reports that Republicans are using the votes of one Democrat in the House to make the case that liberals who voted for the House's health care bill will lose their seats in the midterm elections next year. "One prime target: Rep. Tom Perriello, a first-term Democrat who represents Virginia's 5th District, a cluster of small communities and farms centered around the university town of Charlottesville." A Republican spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said right after Perriello's vote on health care reform that "'It's not often that a member of Congress manages to lose his re-election one year in advance, but that's what Tom Perriello did tonight'" (Raasch, 11/11).