Updated: 1:14 p.m.
As Senate Republicans launched an all-out offensive against the health care compromise, Democrats sought to shore up the support of their liberals, invoking the legacy of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and vowing to push forward a new round of reform in the future.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and others repeatedly referred to Kennedy, who died on Aug. 25 of brain cancer, to make the case for passing the overhaul. Kennedy long championed comprehensive health care reform and before he died called it “the cause of my life.—
Dodd, Kennedy’s longtime friend, said, “Ted Kennedy never stopped believing.— He praised Reid’s efforts and called the final version of the legislation — unveiled by Reid on Saturday — the “most difficult task that I’ve seen in my 30 years here.—
Reid acknowledged that some in the liberal flank may find the bill insufficient, but he maintained that it will make significant progress toward fixing the nation’s health care system.
“Some who are progressives, they feel this bill doesn’t go far enough [but] this bill will do so many good things for people,— Reid said, adding that, “the broken system cannot continue and it will not continue.—
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) vowed that Democrats will continue to work on health care reform and promised more legislative fixes in the future.
“What we’re building here is not a mansion. It’s a starter home. But it’s got a great foundation. This is not the end of health care reform, it’s the beginning of health care reform,— Harkin said.
Harkin, Dodd and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also hailed Reid’s work on the bill. “The manager’s amendment introduced today by Leader Reid makes this good bill even better,— Baucus said, while Harkin called Reid the Democrats’ “quarterback.—
“He called the plays, and now we have the goal in sight,— he said.
But while Democrats were tamping down any liberal unrest, Republicans were busily trying to foment a revolt from party moderates.
“You’ve got to congratulate Ben Nelson for playing the price is right,’— Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) charged at a press conference, referring to Medicaid subsidies in the bill for the Nebraska. “If you’re a taxpayer in Arkansas, you’re going to have to pay taxes for the people of Nebraska.—
Republicans continued to blast the Democrats for insisting that a bill be passed by Christmas. They said that pace has created a toxic environment in the Senate and underscores why the public is so unhappy with its government.
“This bill reaffirms everything that people hate about their Congress,— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, later adding: “This is not about health care reform. This is about the Democratic party trying to save themselves.—
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the components of the bill, highlighting its tax provisions on medical devices, health benefits and working families. At a press conference, McConnell said he would continue to employ procedural tactics to delay final passage of the bill, which he called “a legislative train wreck.—
Immediately after Reid introduced his compromise bill, the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a series of attacks against moderate Democrats in the hopes of forcing them to back out of supporting the bill.
According to the NRSC, the GOP’s campaign arm released a Web video titled “It’s Finally Here: Urge Senate Democrats to Vote NO on ObamaCare,— which urges viewers to call lawmakers in opposition of the bill.
The NRSC also sent the video to its e-mail lists targeting “state media, bloggers and our grassroots lists in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Virginia and Colorado,— according to a release from the organization.
The NRSC is also ramping up a phone-based grass-roots campaign in which “a combination of live and recorded phone calls targeting independent voters will be going out later today to hundreds of thousands of households in each of these states as well,— the release said. The calls, which accuse Democrats of attempting to “take over— the health care system, urge recipients to go to an NRSC-created Web site where they can urge their lawmaker “not to be the 60th, deciding vote,— the NRSC said.
Reid is still hoping to pass a bill by Christmas, meaning Senators will need to work nonstop in the coming days to complete the job.