Senate Democrats Will Release Letter Supporting Reconciliation

Posted March 19, 2010 at 8:21pm

Updated: 9:50 p.m.

Senate Democratic leaders initially resisted publicly releasing a letter from their rank and file supporting the health care reconciliation bill, but they have now decided to release the letter, if not the names of those signing the letter.

Sources said a handful of Democratic Senators have asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to keep the letter private, but Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Friday evening that Reid intends to “release the contents of the letter” after meeting with President Barack Obama and the House Democratic Caucus on Saturday afternoon. Manley would not say whether the names of Senators who signed the letter would be released as well.

The missive lays out a set of principles that Senatorial signatories would pledge to support in the health care reconciliation bill, which will need to be passed by the Senate after House action, according to Senators and aides. It was crafted by House and Senate Democratic leaders as a way to calm nervous House Democrats before their historic vote this weekend on both the comprehensive Senate-passed measure and the budget reconciliation bill of fixes.

Manley pushed back against the suggestion that Reid was being overly cautious with regard to the letter.

“Never has so much been made of so little,” Manley said. “The fact is that Sen. Reid has indicated both publicly and privately his commitment to getting a bill done as quickly as possible next week.”

But sources said nervous Senators pressed Reid to keep their names from being released.

“The purpose is to give assurances to the House, and that can be done privately,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide.

One senior House Democratic source said the letter had not yet been delivered to the chamber.

Another senior Senate Democratic aide said whip checks are generally “conducted in private … before significant votes all the time to determine if enough support exists for the legislation. Following normal practice, we don’t make those conversations public.”

If the House passes both measures this weekend, the Senate will take up the reconciliation bill next week.