Obstacles Loom for Senate Health Care Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled the vote to open debate on Saturday night

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring the Senate's just-unveiled health care bill to the floor on Saturday to begin the debate. To do so, he must secure 60 votes just to open formal debate, the first of several political challenges still ahead for health care reform. We gauged evaluations of the Senate's health care bill here. But what political obstacles remain?

  • Debate Will Likely Proceed  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen cites Reid's apparent optimism. "[T]he leadership agreed to have the bill publicly available for 72 hours before the first vote, and Saturday night at 8 p.m. will be exactly 72 hours after the legislation (pdf) was posted online. [...] If Harry Reid didn't think he could corral the supermajority needed, he probably wouldn't have scheduled tomorrow night's vote." But Benen is agog that this is even necessary. "It's still astounding to me that three Senate Democrats are reluctant to support a routine procedural measure that would simply allow the chamber to talk about health care reform, and consider changes to the bill."
  • $100M For One Vote  ABC News's Jonathan Karl suspects that a very specific, very expensive provision in the Senate bill is meant to win the vote of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. "On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for 'certain states recovering from a major disaster,'" he writes. "Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu."
  • Filibuster Looms Large  If only a majority of 50 votes were required to pass health care reform, it would already be sealed. But the threat of a filibuster would require 60 votes to overcome, which means recruiting moderate Democrats and Independents to the cause. It looks like Reid will secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes to trigger the start of debate, but will those same votes stick around when it comes time to pass the legislation? Politico writes: "[R]eminders of how tough it will be to pass health reform in the end popped up Thursday, as well, as a second member of the Democratic Caucus — Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson — threatened to launch a filibuster to block a final vote, if language restricting federal funds for abortion was not strengthened. 'There are a lot of other things that could keep me from supporting it in the end,' Nelson said."
  • The Reconciliation Battle  Townhall's Dick Morris cautions that, even if the Senate passes the bill, it will still have to be reconciled with the House version and passed again. Could the political tides turn against reform by then? "[I]t will hit a wall as the houses try to reconcile their different versions so as to satisfy the liberal House and Obama's base on the one hand and the most conservative among the 60 Democratic senators on the other. This debate will focus on such a broad range of issues and will be so contentious that it is going to take a long time to resolve."
  • Demonstrating Success in 2010 and 2012  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein anticipates the electoral problems, asking rhetorically, "when Republicans are saying that reform has done nothing despite the fact that it hasn't yet gone into effect, what will Democrats be able to brag about?" Klein lists 12 reforms that will go into effect immediately, including the end of controversial insurance policies like rescission and improved transparency of insurance plans. Klein notes, "Given that we're all going to die when the earth consumes itself in 2012, the effectiveness of these policies takes on a new level of importance."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.