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Democrats have a health-care plan, but do they have the votes?

By Ben Pershing
For the last several months, Democrats have been arguing amongst themselves over not just the substance of health-care reform but also the process. For better or worse, the latter argument is over.

"The White House called for a 'simple up-or-down' vote on health care legislation Sunday," the Associated Press writes, adding: "In voicing support for a simple majority vote, White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle signaled Obama's intention to push the Democratic-crafted bill under Senate rules that would overcome GOP stalling tactics. Republicans unanimously oppose the Democratic proposals. Without GOP support, Obama's only chance of emerging with a policy and political victory is to bypass the bipartisanship he promoted during his televised seven-hour health care summit Thursday." Kent Conrad, a leading Senate budget hawk, said on "Face the Nation" that "it would be unreasonable and impossible to use reconciliation for the broad overhaul of health insurance reforms, but those have already passed the Senate. The reconciliation package 'would be very limited,' Conrad said, dealing with items such as affordability credits and Medicaid expansion," Roll Call writes.

Democrats have a plan, but do they have the votes? "DeParle said on Sunday she thinks Democrats will secure enough ayes on the measure and signaled that the administration could be moving toward trying to pass it along party lines," the Washington Post writes. In the House, "Nancy Pelosi says she is confident she will be able to get the votes needed to pass sweeping health care legislation in the House, even if it threatens the political careers of some members of her party," the New York Times reports. Jonathan Cohn writes that "a variety of administration officials, congressional staff, and lobbyists have said in the past few days they feel the odds for passage are higher than they have been at any time since January, when Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts took away the Democrats' filibuster-proof margin in the Senate. That's not what a lot of the recent media coverage suggests, I know. But I'm inclined to think these sources are right and the media coverage is wrong." Politico reports that Pelosi's chief of staff, John Lawrence, told liberal activists on a conference call Friday that Democrats were "reasonably confident" they could pass a reconciliation package.

"The vote count may get tricky," Bloomberg writes, noting that Robert Wexler, Neil Abercrombie and John Murtha are all gone or leaving Congress, while Joseph Cao -- the only GOP vote the last time around -- has said he'll vote no this time. With Abercrombie's resignation taking effect today, USA Today says, "With each passing day it gets more difficult for the Democrats to pass health care. Literally." And, of course, there's Bart Stupak and his coalition of anti-abortion lawmakers. On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports, "the influential United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which helped get the Stupak provision into the House bill last year, renewed its criticism of the Senate language." Politico says Democrats "are racing to keep Republicans from defining the only legislative tool left to salvage the health care reform bill as yet another tactic hatched in a Democratic back room. During a year in which 'deal' is a dirty word, Democratic congressional leaders are already waging a battle to defend reconciliation and beat back Republican charges that the fast-track rules are an abuse of power." As for the timing, the Wall Street Journal adds that "Pelosi said Sunday the House could unveil specific legislative language for the measure in a matter of days. Those would give more detail to the president's proposed changes to the Senate bill designed to appeal to House lawmakers."

Even if the bill passes strictly along party lines, so what? John Harwood writes that Democrats and Republicans share "a dedication to party unity as an overriding imperative -- and a relentlessly improving track record of achieving it. As they try to govern with President Obama, Democrats recognize in minority Republicans the same obstructionism they practiced at the expense of President George W. Bush and his party. 'To be negative is easy, I know that,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi told columnists recently in describing Republican tactics. 'That's how we won the House.' That is also the flaw in the argument that Democrats would exacerbate polarization by enacting a comprehensive health care overhaul without Republican support. Polarization on Capitol Hill has already reached near-perfect levels." E.J. Dionne says, "The word 'partisanship' is typically accompanied by the word 'mindless.' That's not simply insulting to partisans; it's also untrue. If we learn nothing else in 2010, can we please finally acknowledge that our partisan divisions are about authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing?" Evan Thomas thinks "the problem is not the system. It's us--our 'got mine' culture of entitlement. Politicians, never known for their bravery, precisely represent the people. Our leaders are paralyzed by the very thought of asking their constituents to make short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards."

Speaking of health, "President Obama, 48, passed his physical exam Sunday, though the results show he should watch his diet and keep up his efforts to quit smoking," USA Today writes. Time says, "The doctor also recommends that Obama 'continue smoking cessation efforts.' No word on whether he's been sneaking any smokes." AP has a handily specific fact box -- "Weight: 179.9 pounds, including shoes and workout attire." Obama's cholesterol and blood pressure have both gone up since taking office, but he was still pronounced "fit for duty," as several reports note. (What's the bar for that description? What did the doctors say about Dick Cheney?)

On the agenda this week, McClatchy reported Sunday: "Congress will pass legislation aimed at keeping certain jobless benefits, highway and transit money and other government programs funded, Sen. Jon Kyl , the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said Sunday. But the approval is highly unlikely to come before Monday morning. Several programs expire at midnight, and Congress has failed to extend them because of an objection by Sen. Jim Bunning , R- Ky. Bunning wants the $10 billion price offset by budget reductions. The Senate is not expected to act until Tuesday at the earliest, which means that as of Monday morning, certain extended jobless benefits will not be available. Neither will some highway or transit funds, small business loans or help for newly-laid off workers for their insurance premiums." Federal Eye reports that "federal funding for major road construction projects and national anti-drunk driving campaigns dried up Sunday night" because of Bunning's stand.

There's also movement on financial regulatory reform. "Senate Banking Committee negotiators, working through the weekend, agreed to drop the stand-alone consumer agency sought by the Obama administration and opposed by the banking industry, removing an obstacle that has stalled new U.S. financial rules," Bloomberg reports. Paul Krugman is gloomy: "So here's the situation. We've been through the second-worst financial crisis in the history of the world, and we've barely begun to recover: 29 million Americans either can't find jobs or can't find full-time work. Yet all momentum for serious banking reform has been lost. The question now seems to be whether we'll get a watered-down bill or no bill at all. And I hate to say this, but the second option is starting to look preferable."

Aside from talking about health care, "Pelosi predicted Sunday that Democrats will retain their majority in the fall, in no small part because the party is already bracing itself for what it knows will be a difficult election," the Fix notes. Pelosi is standing by Charlie Rangel, but Peter Beinart argues that "the ethically challenged congressional baron is endangering the Democrats' control of Congress. ... To understand why the Rangel scandals are so dangerous for Democrats, you need to understand something about midterm landslides: They're usually composed of three parts. First, the other party's activists are highly motivated. Second, your own activists are highly unmotivated. Third, independents want to burn Washington to the ground. ... A Democratic source says party pollsters are picking up rumblings that the Rangel scandal is starting to register with the public. If Pelosi and the White House wait until the ethics committee hands down its final verdict, it may be too late."

Looking ahead, Roll Call has a report on what may be the best post-November race -- Schumer vs. Durbin for Senate Majority Leader: "Charles Schumer (N.Y.) helped fellow Democrat Bob Casey (Pa.) get a seat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last year, while Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gave up his chairmanship of a powerful Judiciary subcommittee to Sen. Arlen Specter when the Pennsylvanian switched parties from the GOP last spring. In 2006, Schumer helped persuade several Democrats to vote for Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) bill to increase oil drilling; in 2007, Durbin helped Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)get a consumer product safety bill squeezed into a packed floor schedule. As Durbin and Schumer eye a potential race for Senate Majority Leader this fall, the winner is likely to be decided not on the basis of either lawmakers' political bent or ability to spin in front of the TV cameras, but on what the rank and file really care about: What have you done for me lately?"

By Ben Pershing  |  March 1, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Health Care , The Rundown  
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Next: Former Senate parliamentarian: Biden could play big role in reconciliation process


MA, NJ, VA : Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.

Welcome aboard the November 2, 2010, train to oblivion courtesy of your constituents: conservative & middle of the road Democrats, all Republicans, conservative & middle of the road Independents, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, all unemployed, etc.

Posted by: PRRWRITER | March 1, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Monday, 1.03.2010
Healthcare Reform

The first time I read something about American health care, it was an article about the fact that socially disadvantaged people often remain uninsured and even if they have health insurance, they often don't get the special treatment they would need.
In my opinion, it's really sad that Obama's health care program is rejected by so many Americans. It would be a great step towards social justice.
I myself am from Germany and I really can't understand how people can feel threatened by the thought of a good health care system, even if this means paying higher taxes.
I had cancer two and a half years ago and I'm glad that I live in a country which provides a proper and compulsory health insurance. The treatment of leukemia, for example, is so expensive that even a wealthy middle class family wouldn't be able to afford it on their own, without immense debt. Apart from this, the fact that the medical treatment you get depends on your wealth or your job is immoral, expecially in cases of fatal illnesses.
I appreciate your report about this issue and really hope that the Democrats will be able to pass the health care bill.
Marga R.

Posted by: MRowley2 | March 1, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

If this Healthcare Reform Bill passes, the American taxpayer will be paying for (4)Four Thousand Abortions a day right of the gate. Who's going to get your taxpayer money? Planned Parenthood will get the money. They are like leaches sitting in every school of America to advise your pregnant child to have an abortion. That's a money maker for them and big business to sell the spoils. What kind of sordid society has America become?

Posted by: Logic3 | March 1, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Many people die that have excellent insurance coverage. What are the numbers of people that die with No insurance from cancer to those that have insurance with all things being equal? Ted Kennedy died and he had excellent Health Insurance. I am sure he had the best of healthcare from very early on.

Posted by: Logic3 | March 1, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I pray that the Democrats are able to pass this health care bill. I know it is not perfect - far from it - but it is a much needed beginning to what has been an urgent necessity in this country, health care for all of its citizens. No one should go without care because of fear of overwhelming debt. I have a great job with great insurance right now (though the rates and the deductible continue to rise), but once worked for a large company that avoided insurance for its employees by spliting itself - and us - into several entities. The woman whose position I took had died of cancer - a kind of cancer that could have been kept in check, but she wasn't paid much, did not have proper insurance, so didn't get help in time. Needless to say, I didn't stay at that job, and I was fortunate not to have to do so, but rather able to go to a much better position elsewhere. Many do not have that option, so they work hard, pay their taxes, raise their children, but cannot afford proper health care. That's indecent for anyone who is a citizen of this great country.

I want to say, too, that I'm a senior citizen, which does NOT mean that I cannot afford to pay a larger health care premium if it means that more of our citizens will be cared for properly.

Posted by: jujones1 | March 1, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

the shakedownon

Monday, March 1, 2010
Healthcare Reform

It seems that the number one issue in the News besides the Earthquake in Chile is Health care Reform.

A friend of mine whose Family is pretty wealthy and Republican and was against the original healthcare reform bill said " I don't want the bill to pass because I don't want those people going to see my doctor It'll cause nothing but problems its bad enough that I have to walk pass them on the streets I shouldn't have to see them on my doctors office too" when I asked what she meant by those people she looked at me and responded "Poor People" . makes you wonder if allRepublicans as well as wealthy people feel the same? and Since this will affect people why not let us, the people vote on the Health care Reform bill why leave it in the hands of a bunch of people who don't pay for health care anyway.
So why should they care ? Let me tell you why they care. Is it their bottom line that gets affected ( Contributions from different organizations)or is it Because the people that is going to take the biggest hit in all this isn't the poor people who really can't afford to pay these outrageous prices for health insurance or the person who retired and then had to get a job because their over 65 years old and he or his wife ( in some cases both )had something major happen to them medically (stroke, heart attack etc..)and now their premium has gone up so high they have to work part time in some cases full time just to pay for insurance, Its not like they're trying to get you to believe. It is however the big insurance companies that are getting fat off the little Guy as well as the very well off people whose insurance is very low already who should have to fork out the money to pay for health care reform.

Do your homework people take the time to look over the original Health care Bill before it was changed by the Democrats and the Republicans in the House and Senate but they are quick to say its Obama's Health care Plan when in Actuality its the House and Senate"s Health care Bill.
At what point do we as people stop listening to the the Media and start looking things up ourselves .

Last but not least Why don't we ask Why anyone who gets elected to the House or Senate have to pay for their Health care. if we made them pay what the average Joe had to pay not only what the National Debt be cut in half but I'm sure there wouldn't be a discussion about Health care Reform. because we'd all be covered.
Posted by J.P at 7:09 AM

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Posted by: jpthane | March 1, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The President has a plan to move forward to overcome the Republicans stalling tactics?? As the Prez. himself said that you can put more Lipstick on a Pig and it is still a Pig.
The Democrats have had the majority from the beginning. Why didn't they pass Their Pig of a Healthcare Reform Bill? The Democrats kept putting Lipstick on the Bill and it still looks like a Pig. Pelosi claims that this would be a Bi-partisan Vote; if they push it through with only the Democrat's vote, because the Repulicans had some input into the Bill. How insidious can you get?? The Democrats should look into a mirror. Do you see all the Lipstick on the Pig?

Posted by: Logic3 | March 1, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

If you want to see where Obama’s going, you have to watch this Brand New, Viral


This Hilarious and Shocking Video provides a Fast-Paced Look at the No-Lie-Too-Big, Socialist Ideologues Who Now Run Our Country.


Posted by: CommieBlaster | March 1, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

This represents the pitfalls of the White House decision to finally take over writing a blueprint for health care reform. They obviously did not clear anything with Reid or Pelosi and worked out a timetable on their own that is not realistic.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | March 1, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

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