Senate Democrats Trying To Push Health Reform Bill Ahead

The Associated Press: "History may be calling but time's running out to act by Christmas, so Senate Democrats are coming to terms with the idea they won't get everything they want from health care overhaul. ... The public plan liberals hoped for appeared dead in the Senate, as did a Medicare buy-in scheme offered as a fallback." And, though Majority Leader Harry Reid is still trying to secure the 60 votes he needs to overcome a GOP filibuster, some Democratic fence sitters are saying it is time to pass a bill. Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman appeared to be coming around fast. But others, like Nebraska moderate Ben Nelson, remains uncommitted (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/16).

The Wall Street Journal: President Barack Obama nudged Senate Democrats Tuesday, a day after they "signaled they would abandon plans to open Medicare to people as young as 55. The Medicare expansion had been proposed as an alternative to a government-run insurance plan, which was dropped from the bill last week. But the idea, popular among liberals, was received coolly by some Democrats and provoked opposition from Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent." And now, even with these adjustments, hurdles remain -- most notable, abortion related provisions and cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. "If final divisions can be ironed out, Sen. Reid is expected Friday to take the required steps to close off debate on the legislation. That would likely set the stage for a vote on the bill on Dec. 23, or possibly Christmas Eve" (Hitt and Adamy, 12/16).

The Washington Post: "Yet even as Reid appeared to be closing in on his target, Senate leaders were weighing whether to take a break from the debate to act on a $626 billion measure to fund military operations. Under a schedule sketched out by senior aides, Reid could announce the final health-care compromise as soon as Wednesday, switch to the defense spending bill, then return to a crucial procedural vote on health care this weekend. The target for final passage is Dec. 23, aides said" (Montgomery and Murray, 12/16). 

CongressDaily reports that even Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., "was critical of the bill Tuesday and would not say whether he will vote for it without a public option." Sanders caucuses with the Democrats and Senate leadership is counting on his vote to pass the bill. "Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said he is waiting to see CBO scoring before making a final decision. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., said he needs to see the bill before deciding. Burris reiterated Monday he could not support a bill without a public option" (Edney, 12/16).

NPR: "One lingering problem is how to make liberals happy now that it appears that both a government-sponsored insurance plan and a proposal to let those not quite old enough for Medicare buy into the program will be dropped from the bill." It will take six days to get all the procedural votes on the bill, NPR reports, so leaders will likely have to "tie things up by Thursday if they want to finish before Christmas" (Rovner, 12/16). 

The Boston Globe: "Leaders believe that once a compromise bill is written by a House-Senate conference committee, lawmakers will be more reluctant to vote against it because of the historic nature of the bill" (Wangsness and Milligan, 12/16).

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