Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s “drive” for a “robust” public option “ran into turbulence” 10/22 when a whip count “showed she needs more votes to pass such a bill.” The survey ordered by Pelosi “turned up” 46 Dems who “said they would vote against the so-called ‘robust’ public option, according to a Dem lawmaker. A House leadership source said Dem decisions 10/22 were “in flux” (Soraghan, The Hill, 10/22).
Pelosi’s public option predicament, “coupled with a significant turn of events” 10/22 during a private WH meeting, “points to an increasingly likely compromise” for a “trigger” option. Admin. officials have been saying for weeks now “that this the most likely compromise because it can probably satisfy liberals.”
“There has been a flurry of rumors” that a “robust” public option “remains viable” (Allen, Politico, 10/23). Washington Post‘s Montgomery/Murray report this a.m., for example, that Pelosi and top lieutenants said 10/22 that “they are close to corralling the 218 votes they need” to pass “a version of the public option prized by liberals” (10/23).
But top House Dems “privately concede that is wishful thinking that ignores the power” of moderate Dems in this debate. A top official: “Votes aren’t there. The progressives are always more optimistic than reality” (Politico, 10/23). Three dozen moderate House Dems “are warning” Pelosi and House Maj. Leader Steny Hoyer that they must show that their health-care bill “will cut long-term costs or they will vote it down” (Dennis/Newmyer, Roll Call, 10/22).
Pelosi also said the House bill would repeal the anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies (Herszenhorn, “Precriptions,” New York Times, 10/23).
Turn On, Tune In, Opt Out
Pres. Obama told Dem leaders 10/22 p.m. at the WH “that his preference is for the trigger” plan being pushed by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). It’s a sign Obama “is interested in maintaining a sense of bipartisanship” on health care. At the 10/22 meeting, Obama “did not sign on to a plan being floated” by Senate Maj. Leader Harry Reid for a plan that would let states “opt out” of the public option (Politico, 10/23). Reid was joined at the WH by Dem Sens. Chuck Schumer (NY), Patty Murray (WA) and Dick Durbin (IL) (Politico, 10/22).
Schumer, on the “opt out” plan: “Liberals live with it. Moderates live with it. It’s in the middle” But Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said he is working on further modifying the “opt out” plan “to include a trigger clause and a non-profit, provisions aimed at Snowe (Edney, CongressDaily AM, 10/23).
Reid’s intentions to include a public option in the Senate bill “reflect a calculated gamble” that all members of his party would vote for the plan “if it included some mechanism for states to opt out.”
As word spread of Reid’s plan, “centrist” sens from both parties “said they had come together … to resist the creation of a uniform nationwide” public option. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA): “I am pressing to get a government-run, taxpayer-supported public option out of the bill. I want to rely on a reformed private marketplace, not the current wasteful, abusive, unaffordable private market” (Pear/Herszenhorn, “Prescriptions,” New York Times, 10/22).
TPM’s Beutler asks, “where did all of this momentum for the public option come from?” Apparently, “it came from” a 10/21 “closed-door” WH meeting, “with the push coming from” Dem cong. leaders. Source: “It was indicated that based on some surveying that had been done of the moderates, that it doesn’t so far seem like they would jump out of their skin as long as they have an opportunity to vote against it” (10/22).
Key sens “cautioned” 10/22 that the discussions are evolving, the final proposal has yet to be determined and any determination of a vote count is premature” (Brown, Politico, 10/22). Still, “having both chambers put a public plan on their floors would be a significant boost” to Obama (Haberkorn/Rowland, Washington Times, 10/23).
WH sr. adviser Valerie Jarrett appeared on “Morning Joe” this a.m.
Jarrett, on whether it’s fair to say Obama wants a reform bill that has a trigger, and not necessarily a public option: “No, I think the president has always said he is committed to the public option. Why? Because he thinks it will create competition and therefore, bring down costs. He’s always said he’s open to new ideas. But at this late stage in the game, he still thinks it’s the best option. … He is absolutely committed to delivering on health care form this year.”
MSNBC’s Scarborough: “So by the White House’s count, do you believe have enough to get the public option in the House and the Senate?”
Jarrett: “I think it’s too soon to tell. All I know is we’re going to keep pushing until the very last moment. I think it’s important to understand why. We want to bring down the costs. … What we want to do on behalf of the American people and our taxpayers is to to bring down those costs so that it is more affordable” (MSNBC, 10/23).
Snowe: Go Slow
Snowe is one of several centrist sens who are emphasizing the “absolute necessity of taking it slow” on health-care reform. Snowe: “We must not rush this train out of the station” (New York Times, 10/22). More Snowe, on talks she’s having with centrists: “We’ve had conversations about taking it slow.”
“As a result” of the go-slow warnings, health-care legislation “will not reach the Senate floor sooner than the first week” in Nov. and “has no chance of being approved” by Thanksgiving. Dems and GOPers “expect” the floor debate to take at least a month, putting negotiations between” the House and Senate “squarely in December.”
Liberals are “growing increasingly impatient and irritated with the slow pace, but a stunning defeat of a doctors’ payment bill” 10/21 “has underscored the need for Reid to move cautiously” (Bolton, The Hill, 10/22).
In an interview on Bloomberg TV, Snowe also “said she won’t support the immediate creation of any” public option and she “raised the possibility that legislation overhauling the health system won’t be completed this year.” Snowe: “A public option at the forefront really does put the government in a disproportionate position with respect to the industry.” More: “Christmas might be too soon. We should give it the time it deserves” (10/22).
Another centrist, Sen. Ben Nelson(D-NE), reiterated his claim that Dems should listen to moderates’ concerns. Nelson: “I’ve not said my cloture vote is a given, and I’d be very concerned about a cloture vote if I believe the underlying bill is something I can’t live with” (Edney, CongressDaily PM, 10/22).
With Or Without Her
Ex-VT Gov./ex-DNC chair Howard Dean appeared on the “Rachel Maddow Show” 10/22 p.m.
MSNBC’s Maddow: “Sen. Arlen Specter on the ‘Ed Show’ … today said he thinks Democrats have 60 votes to invoke cloture without Sen. Snowe. If that’s true, is real reform a done deal?”
Dean: “Nothing is ever a done deal until the final vote, but I think that’s true. There’s a long history in legislative bodies, in the Senate and the House in Washington or one of them that you can vote any way you want, of course, on a substantive issue. But you’ve got to vote with the leader of your party on a procedural issue. That is, if you are in a caucus and you owe your position of your chairmanship or your ranking member or whatever it is, to the leader and to the party, then you owe the party, not a vote on an issue.”
More Dean: “That’s your own business and your constituents’ business, but you owe the party and the leadership the ability to run the chamber. And that is why I think that there will be 60 votes. And I think Sen. Reid will do the best he can to get it. And I think he’ll get them” (MSNBC, 10/22).
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), on Snowe saying she’s not going to “support immediate creation” of a gov’t-run insurance program: “We have 60 votes without Senator Snowe, so we can still invoke cloture and move to a vote on the public option. We have flexibility. … With 50 votes, plus the vice president — and my vote is going to be for the public option, a robust public option — we can get it passed, even without Senator Snowe. I hope we have her, but we may be able to do it without her” (“Ed Show,” MSNBC, 10/22)
Steny As He Goes
Hoyer appeared on the “Ed Show” 10/22 p.m.
Hoyer, on whether the House has 218 votes in support of the bill: “I think we have 218 votes. We’re still working, the bill is not completely done … but we’re working, we’re working hard. And as we have in the past, we think we’re going to pass this bill.”
Hoyer, on the effect a House bill has on the Senate: “I certainly think that when the House passes a bill … it will give us momentum. It will send a signal to the Senate that we believe the overwhelming majority of the American public want health reform. We think a significant majority want to support this bill. And I think it will send a message to the Senate for movement. I think it will help Senator Reid and the proponents of the bill in the Senate” (MSNBC, 10/22).
Hey, I’m Just Here To Visit Some Old Friends
Obama travels today to MA, “one of only two states to implement a universal health-care program similar to his ambitions for the entire country.” But “he does not plan to use the trip to make his case for far-reaching reform; he will tout clean energy and raise money for” Gov. Deval Patrick (D). Critics “say his reluctance to spotlight” the MA model “is real-world evidence that his vision would not work” on a nat’l scale. Obama’s allies — and even one prominent adversary — “see a more nuanced picture that offers guideposts for federal lawmakers as they finalize decisions” on a bill (Connolly, Washington Post, 10/23).
For his part, Patrick said 10/22 p.m. that he wishes MA had a public option (AP, 10/22).
Only Time Will Tell
One message Obama “has pressed upon” cong. Dems “is that the top priority in health care reform is establishing the principle that all Americans are entitled to decent coverage.” His “point is that advocates shouldn’t obsess about shoehorning every idea they favor into the legislation; once the basic framework is built, Congress will adjust the details over time, as it has with all other major social-policy innovations.”
“That’s an accurate reading of American history. But it’s also true that it’s easier to renovate a house that has a sturdy foundation. And Obama now faces the risk that in the final maneuvering, his allies will chisel two dangerous cracks into the plan’s base.”
One threat “revolves around” an amendment adopted by the Senate Finance Cmte from Schumer and Snowe “that eroded the bill’s cornerstone provision: the mandate that individuals buy health insurance, with help from government subsidies if necessary.” The second potential crack in the bill’s foundation “would threaten Obama’s ability to fund the subsidies necessary for an effective mandate” (Brownstein, National Journal, 10/24 issue).
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Given the Senate's inaction on the continuing budget resolution (so far), the White House "said it has begun to work with agencies to prepare for the possibility of a large swath of the federal workforce being furloughed without pay beginning at midnight." Even if a shutdown occurs, however, "Senate procedures will allow the chamber to approve the CR with only a handful of Democrats in support by Sunday morning. Of the roughly 900,000 federal employees who were subject to furloughs in agencies’ most recent calculations, most would not be materially impacted as they do not work on weekends."
The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.