HEALTH POLITICS: Everybody's Working For The Weekend
Or, at least, the Senate will be working this weekend. The Senate plans a rare Saturday night vote on a motion to proceed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's $848 billion health care reform bill, released earlier this week. The pressure is on for Senate Democrats, who need 60 votes to ensure the bill makes it to the floor to begin debate.
Reid melded the Senate Finance and HELP committee's reform bills, but his "deep personal involvement in assembling the overhaul of the health care system," makes it "Reid's bill," writes Carl Hulse in The New York Times. If Reid successfully guides the health care reform bill through the Senate, it could be the biggest victory his career, and a huge boon for Obama and the Democratic Party, writes Hulse, but if he fails, it could mean disaster for the Democrats and an even tougher re-election battle for Reid in his home state of Nevada. Many Democrats expressed faith in Reid's skills as a legislator and a tactician, according to the Times,
Colleagues say Mr. Reid's extensive knowledge of Senate tactics and well-honed understanding of what drives and divides his Democratic colleagues leave him well positioned to pull off a legislative coup that has eluded seasoned and determined lawmakers for decades.
"I don't think there are many people in the whole world other than Harry Reid who could do this," said Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana.
Landrieu however is one of three Democratic centrists who Reid is still wooing, along with Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Moderates cite concerns about the cost to states and the abortion language. Nelson has now said he will vote with Reid on the first procedural motion. Lincoln told Reid her plans, but hasn't made them public. But as CongressDaily noted,
...the fact that Democrats aren't backing away from the weekend vote suggests that Lincoln has accepted the argument from leaders that Democrats should vote to move the bill, even if they oppose it and might vote against it in the end.
As we've mentioned before, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has threatened to block the final bill if it contains a public health insurance option. But for now he's agreed to vote with Democrats to get the debate started.
Reid even struck up a compromise of sorts with Republican opponents. According to Politico, Republicans agreed not to read the 2,074 page health reform bill out loud in its entirety. Instead, Reid offered them a full day of debate on Saturday before the evening vote. That means that everyone (even us!) gets a chance to head home for Thanksgiving.
Earlier this week, top Democratic strategists, such as pollsters Mark Mellman and Geoff Garin, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer and White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, met with Senate Democrats to discuss the importance of health reform, reports TIME. Mellman urged senators to remember they are all in this together. A victory on health reform is important to the American people who are struggling with health care cost and coverage. But it's also important to the president's agenda and the Democratic Party's success in the upcoming midterm elections, said Mellman. Health reform wasn't the only element in the deep and wide Democratic losses following President Clinton's failure to pass health reform in 1994, but it was a big factor.
The battle could get uglier as the health reform bill moves through the Senate, but for now it looks like the Democrats are ready to get started on this debate. Time to make history. Time to make progress.