HEALTH POLITICS: Making History Happen in the Senate... and Cincinnati
The baton has been passed from the House to the Senate and the latest reports suggest legislation may come to the floor as early as Monday next week. The Hill's J. Taylor Rushing lays out how things could play out in the Senate:
Senior aides and senators say Democrats plan to pivot quickly and file the first procedural vote as early as Monday. A "motion to proceed" vote, which brings the bill to the floor, would require 60 votes -- a first, critical test of the caucus's unity on procedural votes.
Senators don't expect any momentum from Saturday's successful 220-215 House vote, however. They say the most realistic scenario is for a Senate vote by Christmas followed by final passage in mid-January.
That would allow sufficient time for House-Senate conference talks and final House-Senate votes during January's first weeks. Such a scenario would also put final passage around the time of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
Roll Call's Emily Pierce has more on the logistics and politics of this move:
By aiming to bring up the bill next week, Reid appears to be calculating that the public relations dangers of suspending debate for the weeklong Thanksgiving recess do not outweigh the need to get debate rolling, given the time-consuming roadblocks Republicans are expected to throw up.
Meanwhile, the AP reports that Bill Clinton was the guest of Senate Democrats during their weekly policy lunch Tuesday. We imagine the former president will convey the importance of action and pitfalls of failure on health reform. This is important because while Clinton may have seen this all before in 1993-94, many of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate have not. Of the 60 Senators who caucus with the Democratic Party:
- A majority of today's Senators were not in office during Clinton reform efforts of 1993-94 and 26 were not in Congress.
- Of the 23 senators in office, five (Feinstein, Feingold, Dorgan, Boxer, and Murray) had just been elected and three more were serving their first term (Lieberman, Kohl, and Akaka).
- Eleven current Senators were Representatives in the House during 1993-94. Five were newly elected, and of these freshman, four currently serve on the Senate Finance Committee (Lincoln, Cantwell, Schumer, Menendez) and one (Brown) is on the Senate HELP Committee. (We put these lists together ourselves very painstakingly this morning, let us know if you catch any mistakes.)
One of the big differences between the Clinton years and today, however, has been the role of industry players and advocacy groups. In the past, their opposition helped write the obituary for reform with iconic ads like Harry and Louise pounding the final nails into the coffin. Today these groups are working to influence reform, and this decision is evident in the airwaves. The Washington Post reports:
The battle of the airwaves has already seen more than $150 million spent this year on television ads related to the health-care debate, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. As of Friday, about $63 million had been spent on ads favoring Democrats' reform plans and $52 million on ads opposed, according to the analysis group.
Those figures will only go up in the coming weeks. But while we may still be doing this in January, hopefully by the time Carson Palmer and Cincinnati beat Brett Favre and Minnesota in Super Bowl XLIV (a historic first championship for the once-beleagued Bengals), we can all go back to watching ads about talking frogs and herding cats.