View Full Version : Senate Health Bill's Progress Hinges on Two Southern Dems

11-21-2009, 07:08 PM
Senate Health Bill's Progress Hinges on Two Southern Dems [Time to Man The Barricades!]

Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas emerged several days ago as among the last public holdouts among 58 Democrats and two independents whose votes Majority Leader Harry Reid and the White House must have to overcome the Republicans' attempt to strangle the bill Saturday before serious debate can begin.

Each has moved carefully with an eye on home-state voters. And inside the Senate, each has taken advantage of the political leverage newly available.

A third holdout, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, issued a statement Friday ending any lingering public suspense about his intentions. "The Senate should start trying to fix a health care system that costs too much and delivers too little for Nebraskans," he said, adding his decision should not be seen as an indication of how he will vote on the legislation itself.

Nelson had been publicly signaling his intentions for more than a week, and his words presumably came as no surprise to Reid or the White House, which issued a statement Friday saying the bill "provides the necessary health reforms that the administration seeks."

This sort of political minuet can be delicate, as shown when the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said earlier on Friday that Lincoln had already confided to Reid how she planned to vote.

Republicans, eager to scuttle the bill -- and defeat Lincoln in 2010 -- instantly accused the two-term senator of telling Democratic party leaders before informing her own constituents in Arkansas.

"No other senator speaks for Senator Lincoln. She is still reviewing the bill," declared the senator's spokeswoman, Leah Vest DiPietro, adding her boss had not yet made up her mind. For his part, Durbin sought to quickly close the loop with a statement saying he had been unclear and misinterpreted.

As for Nelson, several officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had insisted Reid omit from the bill any change in the insurance industry's protection from federal antitrust law. The House version of the legislation would expose the industry to scrutiny by both the Justice Department's antitrust lawyers and the Federal Trade Commission.