For reform, Christmas Eve or bust?
By Ben Pershing
If you're a Senate Democrat who supports health-care reform, which sounds worse: Having to stay in town to vote on Christmas Eve, or leaving for the holidays empty-handed? Both scenarios now appear possible, as Republican delaying tactics and one Democratic holdout have served to slow the process and put completion of a bill by Dec. 23 in doubt.
The latest hurdle came Wednesday, when Tom Coburn demanded that Bernie Sanders' 767-page amendment to create a single-payer system be read aloud on the Senate floor. The New York Times paints a dramatic picture: "On the 17th day of Senate debate on health legislation, it came down to this: A rock-ribbed conservative physician from Oklahoma squared off against a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont who was hoping for a full-throated debate on his proposal to establish a system of "Medicare for all." After a few hours, Sanders withdrew his amendment in frustration. And in a sign of the partisan tension in the chamber, even that move was controversial. "Republicans accused Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin of being biased toward Democrats" because he allowed the amendment to be withdrawn, Roll Call reports, adding that the GOP argued such a move did not follow Senate precedents.
Ben Nelson, meanwhile, appears to be the last real Democratic holdout (though some liberals are still grumbling). Nelson continues to push for tougher restrictions on abortion funding, and negotiations are ongoing. "According to participants in the talks, the latest revision would seek to more clearly segregate public and private funds in new insurance exchanges for individuals who do not have access to affordable employer-based coverage," the Washington Post reports. And Nelson's complaints go beyond abortion; he also "voiced concerns about proposed taxes and cuts in Medicare payments to health-care providers," the Wall Street Journal writes. Perhaps he should talk to Nate Silver, who makes "my summation -- my elevator pitch for passing health care reform."
December 17, 2009; 8:14 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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