The new development is that President Obama will go to Capitol Hill tomorrow to push Democrats on health-care reform. It’s a terrible bill but the president’s planned visit to the Hill is just the latest in the Democrats’ move to pass at any cost. The New York Times blog is reporting that the real action today is not on the floor of the Senate:
Even as debate rages on the Senate floor, the real action has been elsewhere in the Capitol complex as Democrats struggle to hammer out compromises on a number of controversial issues. To close debate on the bill and move to a final vote will require the support of all 60 members of the Democratic caucus – 58 Democrats and two independents – or Republicans to make up for any defections.
Among the issues still to be resolved are a proposal to create a new government-run health insurance plan, or public option, and the precise wording of provisions relating to insurance coverage for abortions.
The public option, in particular, is proving an extremely difficult bridge to gap. Some centrist senators, including Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, have voiced unbending opposition to the idea, while a number of liberals are just as firmly opposed to removing the public plan from the bill. And while several senators are working on compromise proposals, many are looking to Mr. Obama for guidance in settling the matter.
At this point, the issue remains so divisive that it is unlikely he will do so. The health care legislation passed by the House last month includes a public option and if Mr. Obama were to weigh in now, it could compromise the ability of the White House to negotiate differences between the House and Senate measures, presuming the Senate can finish its bill.
Here’s my nightmare: Two Democrats muster the courage to vote no on the bill, but Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the media darlings from Maine, give the Democrats the votes they need. Since the press wants this bill, the Maine senators know that they could win praise by voting for it. There is absolutely no Republican input in the bill, and Democrats know it’s now or never. Whether this bill passes or fails, they’re at their maximum strength right now. That’s why this weekend is so intense.