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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accused Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin of being biased toward Democrats" because he allowed the amendment to be withdrawn, Roll Call reports, adding that the GOP argued such a move did not follow Senate precedents.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."

Continue reading at Political Browser »

By Ben Pershing  |  December 17, 2009; 8:14 AM ET
Categories:  The Rundown  
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Does Howard Dean's 11th hour thumbs-down on the Senate health care reform bill presage a possible presidential primary challenge to Barack Obama?

WaPo political pundit Chris Cillizza calls such a gambit "extremely unlikely." But in the eyes of those who have disappointed by Mr. Obama's failure to prevent he bill's watering down by the likes of the petulant and toadying Joe Lieberman, it becomes more likely with each passing day.

President Obama recently has exhibited a peculiar and troubling regression from past displays of moral resolve and courage. Something seems not right with President Obama. He appears to be detached, aloof, dispassionate. He laughs at inappropriate moments, as evidenced in his two "60 Minutes" interviews with Steve Kroft of CBS News. Kroft invited POTUS to emote by asking about the personal agony involved in his decision to send 30,000 more troops into harm's way in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama's response might be characterized as a "Dukakis Moment," more cerebral than empathetic.

It's almost as if President Obama has fallen under the influence of a physical force that has altered his persona, blunted his emotions -- a passionate advocate of hope and change transformed, downsized, into just another calculating and cautious political automaton.

As far-fetched as it may sound, it got me to thinking about this question:


To find out why I raise this question, please read this article and the accompanying "comments" section: OR

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 17, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

It is time for Harry Reid to sit down and realize that this issue is too important to the Nation for him to try to do it without bipartisan support.

I would hope that he pulls the current bill and sit down with the opposition party and come up with a bill that the people in the center of the Senate could support.

He should admit that he cannot please those on the far right or on the far left but it is possible to come up with 60 votes from both parties if he only negotiated in good faith.

Posted by: mwhoke | December 17, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

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