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health carnage

Roland Burris, and a Bunch of Other People, Could Still Hold Up Health-Care Reform

We doubt he will, though! See, even though Joe Lieberman is nearly onboard after the Democrats acceded to his every demand, the entire unwieldy 60-member Democratic Caucus has yet to unify around the bill. And since the Republicans decided a year ago that they wouldn't vote for anything until President Obama is out of office, every single Democratic vote is needed to pass it. We highly doubt that any one Democrat will ultimately doom health-care reform, but that isn't stopping some senators from very openly hesitating about it in the hopes of securing concessions. Here are those senators.

Roland Burris: The Illinois senator appointed by reality-TV star Rod Blagojevich has been making it known the past couple of days that he's not pleased about the removal of the public option. "I am committed to voting for a bill that achieves the goals of a public option: competition, cost savings, and accountability,” he said on the Senate floor Monday, adding that "until this bill addresses cost, competition and accountability in a meaningful way, it will not win [my vote]." Clearly, the public option is not going back in the bill at this point, but Burris has given himself enough room here to vote for it anyway.

Russ Feingold: The Wisconsin progressive is similarly unhappy about the lack of a public option, and doubly unhappy because he was all excited about the Medicare buy-in that was just dropped. He told The Hill last night that "he has not yet made a decision on whether to support the legislation," claiming that the impending CBO score is "only the beginning." At the same time, though, he admitted that "there are obviously some good things in the bill," and come on, he's Russ Feingold.

Bernie Sanders: The Vermont independent released a statement last night claiming that he's "working with the White House and Senate leadership" and that he has "not yet decided" how he'll vote. In fact, just to prove a point, he introduced a 767-page amendment earlier today for a single-payer health-care system — which the Republicans are now making the Democrats read aloud in its entirety. Still, it's highly doubtful Sanders would rather keep the current system in place than support an improved, flawed one.

Ben Nelson: The Nebraskan, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, is still holding off on committing to the bill until he sees what abortion language Harry Reid comes up with. Nelson still claims that he won't vote for a bill that doesn't restrict federal funding of abortion on the level of the House's Stupak amendment. Earlier today, Nelson dispelled rumors spread by conservative blogs that the Obama administration is threatening to close an Air Force base in Nebraska if Nelson doesn't provide his vote. He also told reporters that he couldn't be appeased with the ol' Blanche Lincoln Mary Landrieu treatment (a big fat check). If anyone were going to refuse to vote for the bill, it would probably be Nelson. For what it's worth, The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn hears from a "senior Senate aide" that Nelson is "unlikely to uphold a filibuster if he is the decisive vote."

Also, don't forget that after this passes the Senate, abortion and the public option will still have to be figured out in the House when the bills are reconciled. For abortion, 61 Democratic congressmen voted for the Stupak amendment, while 41 signed a letter vowing not to support health care if the Stupak language remains in the bill. For the public option, 60 Democratic congresspeople have threatened to withhold support for a bill without one. We guess we'll just have to wait and see how serious everyone is. We can hardly stand the anticipation!

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