Reid Continues to Work Moderates on Health Care Bill

Posted October 29, 2009 at 4:14pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is continuing to work the phones to try to build support from waffling moderates for his health care reform plan that includes a public insurance option.Having yet to see the full package, the Senate Democratic centrists have been noncommittal about how they would vote on the legislation, and one moderate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), has said he would support a filibuster to end debate on any bill that contains a public insurance option. But Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who had demurred earlier in the week when asked whether he would support a motion to proceed to debate on the bill, clarified his intentions Thursday.“I’ve expected from the beginning to vote to proceed. I would like to read the bill, just to ensure that there aren’t things that are totally objectionable. But I don’t expect that,— Bayh said. “I from the beginning expected to vote to proceed to the bill. If there are disagreements and problems, we can try and correct them in the amendment process.—Reid this week announced that the final Senate health care bill would include a public insurance option with an “opt-out— provision for the states. The measure is designed to appease liberals who insisted that a public option be included in the legislation, while providing moderates some political breathing room back home.But with the Senate bill still in the hands of the Congressional Budget Office for cost estimates, few Democrats outside of Reid and his negotiating team have been able to review the outline of the bill and form an opinion of it. A handful of Democratic moderates have refused to commit to supporting a motion to proceed until they have further details, which could still be several days away. And even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — who supports the public insurance option — is apprehensive.“I’ve got some big concerns for California,— Feinstein said, explaining that she is troubled about how any Medicaid expansion would affect her state’s budget and how the proposed cuts to hospitals would affect their ability stay in business.Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a key moderate from a Republican-leaning state, said Thursday that his position hasn’t changed from earlier in the week, when he declined to commit for or against a motion to proceed to debate on the bill. Nelson said moderate Democrats have continued to meet and hold conversations about the package but that the huddles have not been very substantive given the lack of specifics.“The discussion is more hypotheticals than anything else — what if, what if — as we haven’t seen any legislation and we certainly don’t have any scoring … so just more communicating with each other than anything else,— Nelson said. The Nebraska Democrat said he and his fellow centrists meet about every other day and added that moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is involved in the discussions. Snowe, who has proposed a delayed public insurance option that could be triggered if private insurers fail to provide affordable coverage, has said she will join her fellow Republicans in filibustering any bill that includes the opt-out public option.Also Thursday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said her position hasn’t changed from earlier in the week when she said she opposes any government-run, government-funded public insurance option. Lincoln could face a tough re-election battle next year and is considered among the cycle’s most vulnerable Democrats.Lincoln has been vague about whether she would support a motion to proceed to the health care bill.“We know very little more than we did two days ago,— Lincoln said. “I think until we know more about what we’re going to be dealing with, it’s kind of hard to have much of a comment or an idea of where we’re going.—