Obama Reaches Out, but Not to Nelson or Lieberman

Posted December 24, 2009 at 10:25am

In the wake of Senate passage of the health care reform bill, President Barack Obama on Thursday called a dozen Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), according to a list provided by the White House.He also called Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who for decades pushed for sweeping changes to the nation’s health system.Kennedy died in August, just as debate over the legislation was about to heat up in the Senate. Dodd led consideration of the bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee while Kennedy was fighting brain cancer.Not on Obama’s call list was Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the last Democrat to fall in line behind the legislation. Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) didn’t get a call either. His opposition to both the public insurance option and its replacement, the Medicare “buy-in— proposal, helped force both items off the bill and angered many Democrats.Nor did Obama call any Republicans. Though several were courted for months by the president, in the end GOP Senators united in opposition to the measure.Meanwhile, as the Senate adjourned, Vice President Joseph Biden hurried back home to Wilmington, Del., where he has spent much of his time while his former colleagues slogged through the final days of debate on the bill. Biden presided over the Senate on Thursday morning as the health bill was approved, then headed over to the White House to see Obama before departing for Delaware.Obama vowed to stay in Washington until the Senate finished the bill. He left for his delayed vacation in Hawaii after the vote.Obama also called two of the Senate’s leading liberals, Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Tom Harkin (Iowa). With the absence of a public option, White House officials are keen to keep liberal Senators from straying off the bill, which will be voted on again by the Senate after a conference with the House.Also called were Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).Obama also phoned an “average citizen,— David Turner of Little Rock, Ark., who saw his health insurance rescinded last year. “The President told Mr. Turner that stories like his motivate him every day to keep working on health insurance reform, and he assured Mr. Turner that he will continue to work to pass health legislation to ban rescission and other abusive practices,— the White House said in a statement.