Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Disagreement Reigns on Hill

Priorities Hang in the Balance

Bill Clark/Roll Call
President Barack Obama urged Senate Democrats on Wednesday not to run away from enacting major legislation, despite the challenges. Democrats are at odds over how to pass health care reform and a jobs package.

House and Senate Democrats seem to agree that health care reform and job creation must be their top domestic priorities. But the agreement stops there.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hard to pass a more robust jobs package and a substantial legislative fix for health care reform, but at the same time she is trying to give her colleague across the Dome room to maneuver amid a crescendo of frustration within her Caucus.

House Democrats say Reid appears to be trying to get Senate Democrats to move forward with a health reconciliation package to accommodate the House, but Members want him to move more quickly. And Reid’s plans to push a series of small jobs packages — rather than one larger measure — has worried House Democrats who fret that their priorities will get the shaft.

“Our leadership is sympathetic to what Harry has to go through, but there’s not a lot of sympathy among our Caucus or with the American people,” Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said, noting that there are more than 200 House bills piled up in the Senate. “Hey, put your shoulder to the wheel.”

Larson said talk from Senate Democrats that they might move several individual jobs bills that leave out a lot of House priorities only adds to that frustration.

“There’s huge concern on our side on this,” Larson said. “The frustration is that we didn’t know that 59 votes meant you were in the minority.”

Larson, like many House Democrats, wants Reid to force Republicans to filibuster job creation bills and other initiatives day after day.

“Let them filibuster. Put them on the spot and let the American people see them for what they are,” Larson said.

Health care is a different story, because reconciliation doesn’t require Republican votes. And Pelosi holds a trump card. She simply won’t be able to pass the Senate’s health care bill without significant changes that deal with the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, a special Nebraska Medicaid deal and affordability credits, Democrats said.

Pelosi is “giving Reid plenty of room to maneuver, but at the same time it’s important to recognize what some of those changes need to be,” said one Democratic leadership aide. “What can he get with 51 votes over there? If he has something, we can take a look and go from there. The reality is our members have made it very clear that they would not support” the Senate bill.

But a Senate Democratic aide said Pelosi has been asking for too many changes.

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