As the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, takes on the delicate task of melding two competing versions of major health care legislation, aides say he will lean heavily on President Obama to arbitrate a number of contentious issues that still threaten to divide liberal and centrist Democrats and derail a final bill.
Mr. Reid’s challenge is to stitch together legislation that can win 60 votes to stop a Republican filibuster. It must satisfy liberals demanding more generous subsidies and safety-net provisions for the middle class, without alienating centrist budget hawks or Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, the only Republican who has indicated she might back the bill.
Democrats now control 60 seats in the Senate, with the appointment last week of Paul G. Kirk Jr. of Massachusetts as the interim successor to Edward M. Kennedy, who died in August. But the party is far from united on the health care issue, even though Mr. Obama has declared it his top domestic priority and has expended enormous political capital on getting a bill passed.
It's interesting mostly in the fantasy like predictions that the article makes for health care reform. For instance, the article predicts that the Baucus bill will make it out of committee by the end of the week. I'm not sure the bill will even make out of committee but it is very unlikely to make it out by the end of the week. The committee took half of Friday off and will take today off for Yom Kippur. Tomorrow the committee will take up the contentious Rockefeller/Schumer amendment to add in the public option into this bill. The current version has only a co op. The committee is about half way through more than 500 amendments, but the article predicts the bill will be ready for a vote by Friday.
Then, it engages in more fantasy when it predicts the Senate will merge all the bills into one and bring them to a vote by October 15th. Now, the House has been in the position the Senate will purport to be on Friday since before the break. There's no final bill to speak of yet.
Besides this, the article recounts what any astute observer already knows. There simply aren't the votes to pass it. Now, it doesn't say that. Instead, the article points out many differences between moderates and liberals.
To appeal to Ms. Snowe, as well as to centrist Democrats like Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the combined bill would not include proposal for a government-run insurance plan, or public option, despite the clamoring of liberals who support it, senior Democratic Senate aides said.
The White House may also be asked to settle regional disputes, including disagreement over proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage, which offers extra benefits to some people 65 and older but often costs the government more than traditional Medicare.
“None of these decisions are going to be made without significant presidential input," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid.
So, by appealing to one group, the final bill will disenfranchise another. By doing so, all the final bill will do is lose two votes to gain one. There's so many issues of contention including the size of subsidies, the cost, cuts to Medicare, and who to tax among them. So, by the time the final bill is done appeasing everyone, no one is happy. That's been one of the problems all along. So many legislators have come forward with potential problems that there's too many constituencies to appease. Some are diametrically opposed to each other. It's total chaos.
Now, Harry Reid wants the president to figure it all out. That's simply wishful thinking. No one can figure this out. If you increase subsidies to appease the liberals, the costs become too much for the moderates to swallow. On the other hand, the liberals demand insurance mandates but don't want the poor and middle class to pay too much. You have to cut Medicare somewhere to pay for it. The liberals aren't too keen on Medicare Advantage so they want that cut. Yet, seniors like Medicare Advantage and so all legislators that represent a lot of seniors, a la Bill Nelson of Florida, are against those cuts. At the same time, the president has pronounced the bill must be revenue neutral. Good luck Mr. President in squaring that.
Beyond this, the new Rasmussen poll has support for health care reform at an all time low of 41%. Seniors support the bill at an astonishing 16%. This is the legislative version of the food fight scene in Animal House.
Like I said, good luck refereeing that Mr. President.