Skip to content

Senate Democrats Plot Next Steps for Health Care

Senate Democrats took to the talk show airwaves Sunday morning to lay out the next steps in advancing their $848 billion health care reform bill, which they successfully cleared for floor debate the night before. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Saturday night’s party-line vote to begin debate on the bill was “an amazing victory— for President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).“We didn’t have a Republican vote, but we are going to move forward after Thanksgiving,— Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.— He said the bill “must— pass this year and urged Republicans to work with Democrats and not engage in a “filibuster-loaded debate where we don’t get down to the basic issues.—Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,— singled out the group of Democratic Senators who were the key votes in moving forward with debate on the package — Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) — and said they should not be able to decide whether the final bill has a public insurance option.“In the end, I don’t want four Democratic Senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in it,— said Brown, an ardent supporter of having a strong public option in the package.He said that ultimately the four Senators voted for cloture on Saturday because they understand the magnitude of the issue. “I don’t think they want to be on the wrong side of history,— Brown said. But two of those Senators emphasized on Sunday that their vote to begin debate doesn’t translate to a vote for the bill.“If I thought the bill couldn’t be amended, corrected and improved, then I wouldn’t vote to move it forward,— Nelson said on ABC’s “This Week.— Nelson cited a litany of concerns with the bill: a lack of cost controls, the need for more restrictive language on abortion and a public insurance option provision that allows states to opt out versus opt in. If the Senate were to vote to end debate on the bill in its current form, “I would not let it get off the floor,— he said.Similarly, Lieberman said on “Meet the Press— that he voted to begin debate on the bill with the understanding that he doesn’t “think anybody feels this bill … will pass as written.—Lieberman warned that he and other critics of the public option are prepared to filibuster if that provision isn’t changed. “Essentially, every amendment is subject to a filibuster. The public option is still in there. The only resort we have is to not report the bill off the floor,— he said.On the contentious issue of insurance coverage for abortion, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said on “Fox News Sunday— that the Senate would “probably— adopt the more restrictive provisions contained in the House bill.But Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said he was hopeful that the Senate language would prevail. “I don’t see a reason to be where the House is on this issue,— he said on CNN. Bennet, like Lincoln, is among the vulnerable Democrats who will face voters in 2010, and the health care vote will no doubt feature prominently in Republican efforts to unseat them next year. When asked whether he would still vote yes on the health care bill if polls showed that it would mean he would lose his job, he had a simple answer: “Yes.— “I think now the wind is at our back,— Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.— He said that while the Democratic caucus is very diverse ideologically, there is consensus about getting a bill done. “This has been debated for a long, long time, and now is the time to act,— he said.Schumer, who has been a key negotiator on the public insurance option, said he believes moderate-to-conservative Senators such as Lincoln, Nelson and Lieberman ultimately will be able to support a bill that has a public plan. “What we will say to the people from the more red, conservative states [is]: ‘Your state doesn’t have to take it. But don’t make it so that my state, which would like a public option, can’t take it,’— Schumer said. Republicans continued to stress on Sunday’s talk shows that polling shows the American public does not support the current reform bill. “The American people have made it very clear they want this thing aired out,— Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said on “Face the Nation.— As for Republican efforts to hold up passage of the final bill, he said, “the object is not to delay for delay’s sake.— Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who appeared on “Fox News Sunday,— raised concerns about the bill’s spending levels and predicted that it would ultimately go down in a manner similar to the way immigration reform legislation unraveled in 2007. That legislation “got the votes to get on the floor— but “people didn’t like it and the bill collapsed under its own weight,— Alexander said.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), appearing on CNN, cautioned that the Senate doesn’t do anything quickly and that the chamber will have an “extensive debate— on the bill. He said Republicans continue to favor a more incremental approach but that Democrats are determined to push through more sweeping reform. “We think we ought to go step by step to improve,— he said. He later added, “If the majority is hell-bent on ignoring the wishes of the American people, they have 60 votes in the Senate.—But the Minority Leader also cautioned that voters would have their say at some point.“It’s hard to handicap the ultimate outcome, whether the majority will ignore the American people or not, but they’ll be heard,— McConnell said. “The American people will be heard. They’ll either be heard sooner or they’ll be heard later.—

Recent Stories

Strange things are afoot at the Capitol

Photos of the week ending May 24, 2024

Getting down on the Senate floor — Congressional Hits and Misses

US-China tech race will determine values that shape the future

What’s at stake in Texas runoff elections on Tuesday

Democrats decry ‘very, very harmful’ riders in Legislative Branch bill