Schumer's Hunting Trip With Nelson; Reid Gets A Hero's Welcome

News outlets profile some of the major players in the health care debate.

Politico reports on a hunting trip that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., took in Nebraska about six weeks ago. Schumer "bagged three pheasants. And six weeks later, he bagged Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), serving as key negotiator as Nelson held the fate of landmark health care legislation in the balance. While the two Senate Democrats didn't spend their morning in a field outside Omaha talking business, the hunting trip will go down as a key, if unconventional, detour on the road to the Democrats' most important modern legislative accomplishment" (Smith and Budoff Brown, 12/22).

NPR: Senate Majority Leader Harry "Reid got a hero's welcome Tuesday as he walked into a rally at the Capitol. Applause came from health care advocates gathered for an early celebration of the all-but-certain passage of the overhaul bill. 'Harry Reid has the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the endurance of Samson,' Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin told the audience. 'He has hung in there day after day, has put this together, and he is about to achieve what has eluded so many majority leaders going back over half a century. Truly with the passage of this bill, Harry Reid will have earned his place in the Senate's history.' Reid, as usual, tried deflecting the praise, saying he was simply batting cleanup" (Welna, 12/23).

The Times Picayune: "As the Senate moved toward passing a health reform bill Christmas Eve on a party-line vote, Louisiana's two senators crossed rhetorical swords Tuesday. Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said that while a $300 million Medicaid fix in the bill, a controversial provision that has been derisively called the 'Louisiana Purchase,' would help address a 'real inequity,' the bill itself 'could be very accurately called the Louisiana Sellout.' But, even as he spoke, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., appearing on C-SPAN's Washington Journal -- for a while they shared a split screen -- said the health care overhaul would ultimately redound to the benefit of most Louisianans and that 'Sen. Vitter has not lifted a finger to help pass this bill and he'll have to live with those consequences'" (Tilove, 12/22).

The Charlotte Observer: "Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan defended the political tradeoffs in the Senate health care bill Tuesday, even as seven state attorneys general probe the constitutionality of what Sen. Lindsey Graham called a 'sleazy process.' 'I'd say that (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid knows how to get 60 votes, and that was very important to our country in order to move forward with that legislation,' Hagan told the Observer" (Morrill, 12/23).

The Washington Post profiles Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. "This week, amid a historic blizzard, the 92-year-old senator arrived in the wee hours after midnight, and in the frigid minutes just after dawn. When an aide guided him in his wheelchair onto the chamber floor just after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, his fellow Democrats leapt to their feet and cheered, for the third time in five days. Their decades-long quest to reform the nation's health-care system was within reach, with 60 votes finally in hand after a weekend compromise, so long as every single Democrat voted. Byrd seemed to relish his contribution" (Kane, 12/23).

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