Healthcare reform by Christmas may be a fading dream

December 16, 2009

Democrats’ hopes of passing a sweeping healthcare overhaul in the Senate by Christmas may be fading as Republicans step up efforts to delay a vote while public support for one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority continues to erode.

HEALTHCARE/OBAMARepublicans forced the Senate to begin reading aloud a 667-page amendment by independent Bernie Sanders that would replace much of the 2,074-page bill with a single payer healthcare system. It had no chance of passing, and Sanders withdrew the measure after it became clear it would take well into the night to read it.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said  other parliamentary maneuvers may be used to slow the bill as Democratic leaders aim for a final vote before Christmas.

“The opposition’s been going up, support’s been going down continuously as people learn more more about the bill,” McConnell said at a news conference.

The Senate slowdown began just as Democratic leaders appeared to be within reach of  the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. Senator Joseph Lieberman appears ready to back the legislation after enraging liberal Democrats  by forcing them to jettison the public option and a proposed alternative that would have allowed uninsured people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare.

Democratic leaders are now focused on Democratic Senator Ben Nelson who remains undecided as he reviews a potential compromise on abortion language that would ensure no public money is used to finance elective abortion services.

Senator Dick Durbin, the second leading Democrat in the Senate, said that in the end they may just have to force any fence sitters to make a decision.

“We may not be able to say we have this all signed in blood as we call the matter for a final vote,” he told reporters.  “When members are confronted with the possibility  of seeing an end to this healthcare debate and an HEALTH-USA/end to the opportunity to expand healthcare, they may have to make that important decision.”

Time is running out. If Senate Democrats have any hope of bringing the healthcare bill to a final vote before Christmas. They have to start the procedural process on the final round of votes by the end of the week. But senators are still awaiting the details and official cost estimates of an amendment by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that will make the final compromises and adjustments to the bill ahead of the final vote.

Senator Max Baucus, who helped write the healthcare bill, said the first procedural vote could occur at about 1 a.m. Monday morning. If Republicans, who remain united in their opposition to the bill, do not allow an earlier vote, the Senate may not get to passage until late  Christmas Eve. Bah Humbug!

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama discusses healthcare Tuesday beneath a portrait of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, an early advocate of national health insurance ); Reuters/Jason Reed (Senator Max Baucus before a committee healthcare vote in October)


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The Senate bill is to watered down in places and to complex in others. I’m with Howard Dean, kill it and start over in the House

Posted by emh | Report as abusive

Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor.
It’s an enormous giveaway to the insurance companies, private hospitals and clinics, and the drug companies. 40 million new customers forced to buy their product with no competition and no regulatory body to oversee it. No wonder the “majority” is against it.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

I can only hope that, if and when the Senate passes their bill, that in the process of reconciliation between the Senate and the House, there is substantial improvement to the bill.
With complete and total opposition by the Republicans (a matter of political policy, not of principal) the Senate is hostage to each and every Senator who is unscrupulous enough to put his own personal biases ahead of what is good for the country, and insists on his way or none at all.

Posted by ls79912 | Report as abusive

Pass the bill then move up from there. Kill it now and the insurance companies, Republicans, and Lieberman get get their Christmas gift early….Millions without coverage. Liberals, you know who the real cowards are. Please don’t join their lot.

Posted by Streetfighter | Report as abusive

“….Millions without coverage.”

Streetfighter. In case you haven’t noticed, the plan doesn’t start for 4 years. Not only that, there will be approximately 25 million who still won’t have health insurance coverage. Their mess won’t solve any problem, but will maintain and create many problems.

Better to let this fiasco die.

Posted by TyC | Report as abusive

Sorry Donna, but did you really just refer to this vacuous Bill as a “sweeping healthcare overhaul”? Looks more like unfinished business that never got off the ground by reason of insanity.

Signing a thing that isn’t worth signing would so… Christmassy, in the Stan Freberg Green $en$e of Christmas – about as meaningful as saying “Have a nice day!” to someone on Death Row.

This Congress deserves a Christmas lump of coal, to be taken internally.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

What I don’t understand is why there are some democrats who want to favor insurance companies. I don’t get that at all. Good health is a human right. But instead it is treated like a commodity.

We as citizens are to blame for this. We should be demanding a public option from our representatives. Insurance companies have lobbied against the interests of the citizens. And we have calmly accepted this. We piss and moan towards each other about it, but we don’t demand action by our representatives.

If most people want a public option then those people need to be proactive in addressing these issues with their respective reps. And don’t vote for them if they don’t come through. We are the fourth branch of government and we have done nothing to keep government honest.

More people want a public option than not. But those of us who want it need to step up our pace when it comes to holding our representatives accountable for their votes.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive