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Will Senate Democrats' healthcare reform tradeoffs seal the deal?

The healthcare reform tradeoffs reached Tuesday - no public option but expanded Medicare access - may help Senate Democrats win more moderates' votes. But it's still not clear they've got to 60.

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But in any standoff between the centrist and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, at least for now, the centrists have an edge: Red-state moderates could lose reelection if they vote a position too far from that their constituents on healthcare reform, posing a threat to the Democratic majority in both the House and Senate.

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Moreover, a review of senators' voting record on healthcare amendments over the past two weeks shows that moderates are much more willing to break with their caucus than are progressives.

In his bid for compromise on the public option, majority leader Reid asked 10 Democrats to negotiate differences over the public option. These included moderate Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who led the centrists; Thomas Carper of Delaware; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Progressives were Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, who also chairs the campaign arm of the Senate Democratic caucus; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; Tom Harkin of Iowa, and John Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Since the first votes on amendments on Dec. 3, moderates on the negotiating team crossed party lines to vote with Republicans 17 times, on issues ranging from cuts to Medicare and home health services to tort reform. Senator Nelson of Nebraska voted with Republicans on all but 2 of 16 votes. Progressives split with the party only once.

But progressives say their votes can’t be taken for granted.

“While I appreciate the willingness of all parties to engage in good-faith discussions, I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach,” said Senator Feingold, a negotiator, in a statement Tuesday night. “We need to have some competition for the insurance industry to keep rates down and save taxpayer dollars. I will base my vote on the bill
on the entirety of what is in the bill, and whether I think the bill is good for Wisconsin.”

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See also:

Nelson amendment fails, but healthcare abortion battle isn't over.

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