Republicans Oppose Military Spending To Delay Health Bill
Senate Republicans attempted last night to block a $626 billion defense bill in hopes that stalling the military spending legislation would delay Democrats' work on the health overhaul, The Washington Post reports. By a 63-33 vote early Friday morning, the defense measure cleared a key procedural hurdle that should now allow it to gain passage and, as a result, allow the Senate to return to the health bill. "After years of criticizing Democrats for not supporting the troops, just three Republicans supported the military funding." Asked to defend their reason for opposing the bill, some Republican senators were "blunt," the Post writes. "I don't want health care," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. (Kane and Montgomery, 12/18).
Meanwhile, "Democrats had to struggle to line up all 60 of their members in support of a key procedural vote to overcome anticipated Republican opposition to a bill Republicans would normally rally behind and have criticized Democrats for politicizing in the past," The New York Times reports. War opponent Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., was poised to vote against the measure, but he changed his mind after realizing in his words "this was really an effort to slow down a bill they were going to vote for anyway to destroy health care and that is not something I wanted." The Times continues, "With Democrats trying to inch toward a final vote on the health care plan before Christmas, Republicans are using every tactic at their disposal to try to thwart progress. Delaying a final vote on the Pentagon measure was just the latest and probably not the last" (Hulse, 12/18).
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is determined to finish work before the Christmas holiday and has set a schedule that would end with a final vote on the evening of Dec. 24," The Hill reports. But, his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., retorted, "If the majority leader wants to schedule a vote Christmas Eve, that's unfortunate, but Senate Republicans will not make it easier for them to try and pass this historic mistake" (Bolton, 12/17).
"What's apparent in all the wrangling is that the Republicans, who control only 40 of the Senate's 100 seats and 177 of the House of Representatives' 435 seats, slowly are becoming players in this Congress," McClatchy/Miami Herald reports. "Even if Democrats can get 60 votes, Republicans can employ other delaying tactics, such as insisting that the entire text of the health care legislation be read on the Senate floor" (Lightman, 12/17).
But, not all of the delays Democrats face are of Republican design. Politico reports, "Reid still had no legislative text and no cost analysis to release." He also continues to struggle with Democratic Party infighting and other significant challenges (Brown and Shiner, 12/17).