Reid to visit House with 'whip check' in hand
By Michael D. Shear
President Obama may be the guest of honor at the House Democratic Caucus this afternoon, but the guy everyone wants a piece of is Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.)
The Majority Leader will venture to the other side with a "whip check" in hand -- in this case a letter that will show a majority of the Senate plans to vote for the health care "fixes" -- or reconciliation -- bill if the House passes it.
Given the lack of trust that exists between Democrats in the two chambers, Reid may need some body armor. House members have been demanding proof that the other chamber will follow through after what many House members believe could be the toughest vote of their careers.
Their fear: that the Senate could decide not to pass the fixes, leaving the original Senate-passed bill -- with provisions noxious to House members -- as the law of the land. Or, they could make some changes to the fixes bill, forcing yet another vote in the House.
"We have to find a device to receive absolute assurances from our Senate colleagues that they'll be able to complete the reconciliation process in the Senate," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill last week.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley says the fears are overblown, part of the worst atmosphere of distrust between the two chambers that he can remember. He says House Democrats have little to worry about.
"Sen. Reid has indicated both publicly and privately, repeatedly, that he ands his caucus are absolutely committed to getting the bill done as quickly as possible next week," Manley said.
Whip checks -- in which the leaders of one chamber check with their party's counterparts in the other to see how a vote is shaping up -- are common. But they are rarely made public. Manley said the letter will be released after today's caucus meeting.
White House officials hope the letter helps calm jittery House Democrats. And Reid's presence at the caucus today will allow House members to look him directly in the eyes.
Manley said he's not worried.
"He's a former boxer," Manley said of Reid. "He can take care of himself."
March 20, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories: Capitol Briefing
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