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Election Doesn’t Faze Moderates

Less prone to election-year jitters given only about a third of their chamber is up every two years, moderate Democratic Senators also said they weren’t concerned about this week’s results. Yet many of those centrist Democrats were already on edge about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care package. The bill is still under review by the Congressional Budget Office, and Members have yet to see any legislative language.

Unhappy with the inclusion of the public insurance option and queasy about the potential trillion-dollar cost, many moderates have refused to commit to support a motion to proceed to begin debating the bill. Additionally, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, is vowing to filibuster to end debate on a final bill if it includes a public insurance option.

Moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has been highly skeptical of President Barack Obama’s health care agenda. He said Tuesday’s election results didn’t change his views one way or the other.

“I think it was a referendum on the economy and on spending, and the people were able to take it out on incumbents — and so they did,” Nelson said. “I’ve had pause for a long time. I’ve been concerned about spending in Washington. So it was no wake-up call to me; I’m wide awake.”

Nelson, who also won’t commit to supporting a motion to proceed on the Senate health bill, reiterated that his vote would depend on the makeup of the final bill. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), another key centrist, said Democratic losses in New Jersey and Virginia would not have any influence on her vote.

That was a position shared by Democratic Congressional leaders, who argued the gubernatorial losses was not a referendum on Obama or the party’s agenda.

If anything, Democratic leaders in both chambers argued that they came out ahead, noting that the two Congressional races on the ballot — New York’s 23rd and California’s 10th — were won by Democrats. However, two Senate aides who work for moderate Democrats confirmed that the centrists are mindful of how health care reform might influence their prospects in 2010, particularly because the Republicans did so well among independent voters in Tuesday’s balloting.

“All Senators are judged not only on what they do, but by what they don’t do. The American people want health care reform,” Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau said. “I’m going to bet on those Senators who go home and say, ‘Here’s what I delivered to you,’ versus those who said no to reform and show up empty-handed.”

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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