Senate Democrats' Leaders Face Challenges, Plot Strategy On Health Reform Bill

Democratic Senate leaders are trying to consolidate support within their own caucus.

The Wall Street Journal reports on Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who says she generally supports the health overhaul efforts, but would like to see more items like higher federal Medicaid payments for her state, increased coverage for foster children and more help for teaching hospitals in Louisiana before she commits to voting for the bill — all while insisting Democrats lower the cost of the bill. "As Democratic leaders enter the intensive phase of their drive to pass health legislation, they must satisfy 60 Mary Landrieus in the Senate — every Democrat and the two Democratic-friendly independents, each with individual priorities — as they try to hold together a fragile coalition with no room for error." Others like Landrieu include Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.; and Bob Menendez, D-N.J. (Bendavid, 11/6).

CongressDaily reports that some Democrats also still have concerns over allowing states to opt out of the government-run public option for health insurance. "Some Democrats wary that the opt-out will effectively become a national public option are pushing for Reid to consider an alternative, such as the so-called trigger backed by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. (Landrieu) and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who have not committed to vote for cloture and end debate on the healthcare bill, still hope to convince Reid to reconsider inclusion of the opt-out in the bill he takes to the floor" (Friedman, 11/6).

Finally, Roll Call reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel late Wednesday "to discuss how to get a health care reform bill through his chamber by year's end, according to Democratic sources." (Drucker, 11/5).

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