Landrieu to Vote to Begin Debate

Updated: 2:40 p.m.Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) announced on the floor Saturday that she would vote to kill a GOP-led filibuster designed to prevent a major health care overhaul from coming up for debate.Now that Landrieu and Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) – who announced he would vote against the filibuster Friday – have signaled their intentions, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) remains the only centrist Democratic holdout.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs the votes of all 60 members of the Democratic Conference in order to start debate on the bill and block the Republican filibuster. Three-fifths of the Senate must vote to kill a filibuster.In her remarks, Landrieu explained her decision by saying that her vote “should in no way be construed ... as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end.—Landrieu thanked Lincoln for pressing Reid to allow a 72-hour review period between the release of the bill on Wednesday evening and the vote Saturday night, noting she has used that time to decide that there are “enough reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done.—To help secure her vote, Reid also included a provision in the bill sought by Landrieu to provide increased Medicaid funds for states recovering from major disasters such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.Landrieu defended the inclusion of the provision and said Republican critics who accuse her of selling her vote for $100 million are wrong and that she has the support of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.“I will correct something. It’s not $100 million, it’s $300 million, and I’m proud of it and will keep fighting for it,— Landrieu told reporters after her floor speech. “But that is not why I started this health care debate; I started this health care debate for all the reasons I just mentioned in my statement— on the floor.She added that she has sought the amendment since the beginning of this year.Landrieu also said she does not believe the bill as written will receive a filibuster-proof majority in order to move to final passage, and that Reid and other Democratic leaders will have to get rid of the public insurance option in order to secure the necessary votes.“I believe it’s going to be very clear at some point very soon that there are not 60 votes for the current provision in the bill and that the leader and the leadership are going to have to make a decision and I trust that they are going to figure out how to do that,— Landrieu said.She said she would continue to work with Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and other Democratic centrists on a possible compromise that could attract 60 votes.

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