Sept. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

GOP Woos Health Bill Moderates

Convinced for the first time that they can bring down Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care reform package, Republicans are trying to get votes on more amendments as part of a strategy to divide the Democratic Conference and turn a few wayward moderates against the bill.

A group of moderate Democrats have repeatedly joined the Republicans in supporting losing amendments aimed at removing Medicare cuts and tax increases from Reid’s bill, and the GOP believes there are only so many of these losses centrist Members of the majority can stomach before they walk away from the health care package in its entirety.

“We’re being successful at helping the American people understand what this bill costs, what it will do to them, and as a result of that, the American people are turning against the bill and the Democratic Senators are hearing from them,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said Monday. “They’ve had a steady stream of bad news. I mean, their theme song ought to be, ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.’”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), unable to reach agreement with Reid on a schedule for voting on additional amendments, moved Sunday to force moderate Democrats to take at least one more tough health care vote by filing cloture on a motion offered by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

Crapo’s motion proposes that families earning up to $250,000 a year — or individuals earning up to $200,000 — do not have their taxes raised to pay for health care reform.

McConnell even said he would give up his usual demand that Republicans get to offer the same number of amendments, as he sought to get an agreement to offer Crapo’s motion in advance of any effort by the Democrats to end debate on Reid’s bill.

Given increased Democratic infighting over the public insurance option, abortion and an amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) relating to the reimportation of prescription drugs, Republicans now believe they have a realistic chance of defeating the majority’s health care package.

“I think the vote tally is going the opposite direction,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. “You’ve statements out there by [Democratic] Members — what they would support, what they wouldn’t support — that limits very greatly as to where Harry can go to try construct a bill without squeezing the balloon here and having another one pop out.”

A positive Congressional Budget Office cost estimate could turn things in Reid’s favor. But as it stands, the majority conference is divided over a potential compromise to the public insurance option negotiated by a group of 10 liberal and moderate Democrats. Several centrist Democrats expressed concerns over the weekend about Reid’s package and reserved the right to oppose it over key issues.

In particular, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), already prepared to filibuster over the public insurance option, said he also would vote against a motion to end debate on the bill if it includes a proposal to allow individuals ages 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare.

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