Senate healthcare reform debate: Week 1 down, how many more to go?
One week into the Senate healthcare reform debate two things are clear: Democrats don't have their 60 votes, and the end is not coming anytime soon.
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One amendment was passed by unanimous vote. Proposed by Sen. Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado, the provision guarantees that current Medicare benefits guaranteed under law won’t be taken away by anything included in healthcare reform legislation. Widely seen as being a Democratic response to GOP charges that the bill endangers Medicare, this amendment passed by 100 to 0.Skip to next paragraph
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While the debate grinds forward on the floor, much of the real work continues behind the scenes.
This hidden effort focuses on what Senator Durbin says are the two main obstacles to passage: abortion and the pubic option.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska plans to soon introduce an amendment that contains strict abortion funding limitations. Originally he had planned to sponsor this provision in conjunction with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, but the joint aspect of this venture has apparently fallen through.
The abortion amendment will probably come up early next week, according to Durbin. The Democratic leadership needs Senator Nelson’s vote for final passage. But the abortion issue could split the caucus, alienating liberals who see a need to defend abortion rights.
“We know Senator Nelson feels very strongly about this,” Durbin said.
On the public option, a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Thomas Carper (D) of Delaware is currently trying to forge a compromise. They met Thursday night to present their ideas to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut and others skeptical of a government-run insurance plan.
Senator Carper’s compromise so far involves a nonprofit insurance enterprise that states could opt to join if private firms don’t provide their residents with enough insurance choice at the right price. Senator Lieberman emerged from the Thursday meeting sounding dubious, saying that at this point he had heard nothing that changed his opposition to the concept.
Still, Durbin insists that the Senate is moving toward the point where the Democratic leadership can begin talking about the end game.
“Our goal is to finish this before Christmas. We’re going to stick with this and get it done,” he insisted.
See also our Healthcare Holdouts series:
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