Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Leaders Assess Health Reform Options

Walz said that it has been hard to defend a 2,000-page bill. “I don’t think the message has gotten out of how this is going to help people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said the Senate bill would have to be “cleaned up a heck of a lot” before she could vote for it, “with all that Nebraska junk” and other pork-barrel items tossed out.

Senate Democratic leaders, meanwhile, moved cautiously to reassess the political terrain while considering their options on health care.

From Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his team to rank-and-file Democratic Members — both liberal and moderate — there was an overriding consensus to wait for the House to act, and to allow Brown to be seated, before making any decisions on how to proceed. Forcing the Democrats to change course is Brown’s pending installation, which will provide the Republicans with the vote they previously lacked to sustain a filibuster.

Using reconciliation rules to get a bill to Obama’s desk remains an option, Senate Democratic leaders confirmed. But whether the procedure becomes necessary depends largely on what happens in the House. In the interim, Senate Democrats are itching to pivot to jobs and the economy as they prepare to face the voters in November.

However, senior Democratic Senate sources made clear Wednesday that the leadership’s intention is to complete health care reform before shifting attention to the economy and pushing for a jobs bill — even though there was anything but clarity on what to do next.

“If there was one message I got from the leadership meeting I held [Wednesday] morning and the caucus [lunch] I just had, it is the fact that we’re concerned with everything going on in the country and we’re not going to rush to judgment on any one of them,” Reid told reporters, when asked how Democrats planned to move forward on health care.

“I think we ought to pause a day or two to think about it, and let the dust settle a little bit before we come out with a declarative strategy,” added liberal Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

Brown vowed during his campaign to be the 41st Republican vote in the Senate to kill health care reform and send it back to the drawing board, and he opposes Obama’s proposal to tax certain banks and institutions that have received federal bailout money.

But despite Brown’s victory, moderate Senate Democrats were not prepared to abandon the health care reform effort — including those who hail from states where the Democratic legislation has received poor marks in public polling.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) remains supportive of the $871 billion Senate package, even though an Omaha World-Herald poll taken Jan. 8-12 revealed that 60 percent of registered voters in the state dislike the legislation. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) also maintain their support, as do other moderate and centrist Democrats.

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