Democrats still searching for 60 votes on health care

Now that Democrats have removed a massive Medicare expansion from their party's health care plan, President Obama and Senate leaders are predicting passage by next week. But the bill could still be stalled by party holdouts and Republican opposition.

Obama left an afternoon meeting with Senate Democrats declaring himself to be “cautiously optimistic” that the bill he has been pressing for since taking office in January would be passed, but he also acknowledged a deal had not yet been reached to ensure support from all 60 members of their caucus.

“There are still some differences that have to be worked out,” Obama said, flanked by Democratic leaders. “This was not a roll call. This was a broad-based discussion about how we move forward.”

At least two senators — Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Roland Burris, D-Ill. — have held back support for the bill, which has been rewritten multiple times in recent weeks and now excludes a government-run insurance program.

Nelson said he was worried about the cost of the bill as well as federal funding of elective abortions.

Burris has been insisting on a bill that includes a substantial new federal insurance program because he believes it will help make health care coverage more affordable.

“My colleagues may have forged a compromise bill that can achieve the 60 votes that will be needed for it to pass,” Burris said on the Senate floor. “But until this bill addresses cost, competition and accountability in a meaningful way, it will not win my vote.”

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., acknowledged Democrats lacked the 60 votes needed to block a potential Republican filibuster but added, “We'll have 60.”

Most Senate Democrats are backing the latest incarnation of the bill and are gunning for a Dec. 23 vote on final passage, with the critical vote to end debate happening the weekend before.

But most liberal Democrats other than Burris — including those who had been adamant about creating a new government plan — declared themselves satisfied with the new bill, which offers federally subsidized private insurance in a new national system.

The bill still aims to expand Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, to provide government coverage to millions of people.

“I'm going to vote for it,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “I can't imagine I wouldn't. There is too much at stake.”

Democrats appeared willing to take less than what they originally asked for, in part because the believe they can eventually change it more to their liking.

“Landmark legislation is always revisited later on,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Even if Democrats round up 60 votes, they may not make their Christmas deadline. Republicans are weighing a number of parliamentary tactics — such as reading the entire 2,000-page bill on the Senate floor — that could stop the legislation from passing this year.

“That would certainly be my goal,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

PoliticsUSwashington examiner

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Jill Bonny, owner of Studio Kazoku tattoo parlor in the Haight, tattoos client Lam Vo on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
No one was fighting for tattoo artists, so they started advocating for themselves

Jill Bonny has been tattooing in the Bay Area since 2000. Four… Continue reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

At a rally in February, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, left, and Eric Lawson remember Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who died after he was pushed to the pavement in San Francisco. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Examiner file photo)
The criminal justice system can’t fix what’s wrong in our community

My 87-year-old mother walks gingerly, slowly, deliberately, one step in front of… Continue reading

Superintendent Vincent Matthews said some students and families who want to return will not be able to do so at this time. “We truly wish we could reopen schools for everyone,” he said. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD sets April reopening date after reaching tentative agreement with teachers union

San Francisco Unified School District has set April 12 as its reopening… Continue reading

José Victor Luna and Maria Anabella Ochoa, who cite health reasons for continuing distance learning, say they have been enjoying walking in Golden Gate Park with their daughters Jazmin, a first grader, and Jessica, a third grader. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Some SFUSD families prefer distance learning

Health issues, classroom uncertainties among reasons for staying home

Most Read