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Swing Senators Wait on the CBO, Cast Doubts on Carper Plan

By Sarah Lovenheim
Passage of a health-care bill out of the Senate Finance Committee hinges on whether Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) can reap enough votes from the member of his panel, which is composed of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Here's some of the latest buzz surrounding the swing-vote senators, illustrating the pressure they're under as they approach a decision.

Big Three Await CBO Report
In a New York Times piece highlighting the swing positions of swing senators, staff writers Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn write that Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Republican Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) "said that in deciding how to vote, they would be influenced by a cost estimate soon to be completed by the Congressional Budget Office." Lincoln told the New York Times, "I am going to wait and see what the scores are."

Follow the Money
A blog item on Talking Points Memo reminds readers of how much money some members of the Senate Finance Committee have received from medical industry donors. The rundown for Lincoln, for instance, looks like this:
Health Professionals: $298,700
Pharmaceuticals: $153,304
Blog writer tmccarthy0 presses the question, "What will we do about our current incarnation of Conservadems who are owned by the Insurance Industry?"

He's 'Uncharacteristically Tight-Lipped"
The Oregonian's Charles Pope writes that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) "was uncharacteristically tight-lipped' yesterday about how he'll vote this week. "I'm working to improve the bill to address the concerns you've heard me talk about -- holding costs down, holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition, and making sure we have real reform," Wyden said in response to a question about his pending decision. Asked how he might respond to Wyden's worries, Baucus "did not say how it [the health bill] might be changed to accommodate Wyden's concerns."

If the Committee's bill does not appeal to Wyden, he "can convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to incorporate some of his ideas when Reid combines the Finance Committee bill with another, more liberal one, passed in July by the Senate Health, Environment, Labor and Pensions Committee," wrote Pope. Wyden has met privately several times with Reid recently, but Pope said he "declined to comment on the substance of the meetings."

Snowe Falling for Carper's Plan?
Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy of the Wall Street Journal, writing about Senator Tom Carper's (D-Del.) proposal to let states enact public option plans (instead of the federal government), said of Snowe's reaction: "Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe cast doubt on the Carper idea. She favors creating a federally run health plan as a fallback option that would come into force only if other changes to the system fail to expand coverage as expected." Snowe told the Journal, "A fallback can work and would work, in the event the private insurance industry failed to produce results."

If All Fails, Filibuster
An editorial in The New Republic says that as Democratic swing senators push for a bill of their liking, "there's a political cost to watering down reform: It might produce a bill that voters don't like." TNR believes that even if conservative Democrats can secure their campaign contributions, it's still "at the risk of alienating constituents. Lincoln will have Wal-Mart. But will she win her next election?"

TNR's conclusion? The swing senators might need "a clever way out of their political dilemma -- a way to produce change without supporting reform that is perceived as too liberal... Obama and his allies are focused on getting 60 votes because that's what it takes to break a filibuster. But a senator can vote to break a filibuster without voting for the bill being filibustered."

By Washington Post editors  |  October 7, 2009; 8:18 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Swing Senators  
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Next: Democratic Governors Weigh In...for Republicans


That will probably be the path to a public option inclusion, Senators voting against a filibuster but also (for conservative political cover) voting against the bill (or amendment) that is being filibustered.

Posted by: owldog | October 7, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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