Next 48 hours critical to Democrats’ goal of a bill before Christmas

— Lieberman says ‘no’ to current legislation — Romer to tout new report on health care costs — Orszag slams WSJ editorial

By: CHRIS FRATES on December 14, 2009 @ 5:40 AM
It’s Monday. “Pulse is just another word for nothing left to lose.” (h/t: A festive JMart.)

BIG WEEK AHEAD — Senate Democrats scrambling to pass a sweeping health care reform bill before Christmas begin this critical week facing a host of nettlesome problems that threaten to derail the Democrats’ fast-track timetable. Democrats must work out compromises on long-standing problems like the public option and abortion while dealing with more recent intraparty spats like whether to allow consumers to buy Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs from other countries, an issue that stalled last week and remains stuck on the Senate floor. Most insiders agree that Democrats have until Thursday to work out their differences if they want to pass a bill by Dec. 23. It will take at least five or six days after Democrats move to end debate before they can vote on the bill. Democrats expect to begin the endgame early this week and still sound optimistic that they can get it done. If Democrats can overcome the looming hurdles and pass a Senate bill, they still face the difficulties of reconciling their legislation with the more liberal House bill. In a meeting last week, House Democratic leaders dismissed suggestions that they’d be willing to simply accept whatever the Senate passes, people present said. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the group that he wanted to make sure the House would not just rubber-stamp the Senate bill simply to avoid another round of contentious, time-consuming negotiations. With Patrick O’Connor

LIEBERMAN TELLS REID ‘NO’ ON MEDICARE BUY-IN, reports HuffPo’s Sam Stein: “Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a face-to-face meeting on Sunday that he will vote against a health care bill that includes a public option or a provision that would expand Medicare, a Democrat Senate aide tells the Huffington Post. The two Senators had a discussion in Reid’s office shortly after Lieberman appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning. The Connecticut Independent discussed with Reid some of his concerns about the legislation, elaborating on issues he had raised during the show. According to the source, who was briefed on the exchange, Lieberman punctuated the discussion by telling the majority leader directly that he would vote against the bill if the Medicare buy-in and public option provisions remained in it. Roll Call reports that Lieberman said he would also support a Republican filibuster of legislation that included these provisions. ‘Leadership was definitely a bit surprised with the lines being drawn in the sand the way they were,” said the source. “We expected that he would say critical things about [the bill]. But he is not even giving us a chance to get it scored.’ The pledge by Lieberman to oppose the bill represents a potentially huge setback for reform proponents, many of who saw the latest round of policy compromises as the last true chance to corral the needed votes. That said, leadership has several fallback options (none of them promising) should Lieberman follow through on the threat.”

NYT FOLLOWS SAM with Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn reporting: “In a surprise setback for Democratic leaders, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said on Sunday that he would vote against the health care legislation in its current form. … On a separate issue, Mr. Reid tried over the weekend to concoct a compromise on abortion that would induce Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, to vote for the bill. Mr. Nelson opposes abortion. Any provision that satisfies him risks alienating supporters of abortion rights. … Democrats are desperately trying to round up 60 votes and conclude Senate debate on the health care bill before Christmas. Mr. Reid could not immediately figure out how to achieve that goal at a meeting he held Sunday with senior Democratic senators and White House officials, including Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, according to Senate Democratic aides. … Aides to Mr. Reid met Saturday with advocates of abortion rights to explore ideas for a compromise. Details were sketchy. Under one idea, some health plans receiving federal subsidies could offer optional coverage for abortion, but they could not use federal money to pay for the procedure. They would have to use money taken from premiums paid by subscribers and would have to keep it separate from federal money. Critics of abortion say such requirements for the segregation of funds are an accounting gimmick. In hopes of placating opponents of abortion, Mr. Reid is also considering an increase in the federal tax credit for adoption of children and a new program to provide services to pregnant high school and college students. Both ideas were proposed by Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who opposes abortion but generally supports the overall bill.”

** To fix health care, we need to cover everyone. We can only afford to cover everyone by fixing health care. Kaiser Permanente believes both are needed. Go to http://www.kp.org/reform for more. **

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