If you were counting on last week's "deal" among 10 senators on health care to propel an overhaul through the Senate by Christmas, you might want to hedge your bets a bit. This cake's only half-baked.
The Senate health bill "deal" might need a little more time in the oven.
The Senate health bill "deal" might need a little more time in the oven. tarale/Flickr
This is a key week in the health debate and a key week for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to show he can lead without opening his mouth and inserting his foot.
He has to file three procedural motions as soon as humanly possible in order to get to final passage of a health bill by December 25. But for all three motions, he needs 60 votes. And he doesn't appear to have them yet. NPR's Julie Rovner points out Reid and the rest of the Senate have only nine shopping days to go.
Problem No. 1: Independent Senator Joe Lieberman.
Following member and staff briefings on the "deal" this weekend, it is clear that Reid is having trouble selling his own caucus on an idea to allow Boomers to buy into Medicare before age 65. As The Huffington Post reports, Lieberman recently informed Reid that he is not going to vote for it because it would cost too much. For this gutsy show, Reason.com compares Lieberman to Superman II villain Zod.
Now might be the time for Reid to remind Lieberman that his powerful chairmanship might not be forever. We hear a resurgence in the call for more militant reconciliation procedures to push the bill through.
Another component of the "deal" — expanding the role of the Office of Personnel Management to oversee non-profit health insurance companies who would sell new policies to the uninsured — is not without complications like, how to structure it and whether it would even save any money.
Whether and how to expand federal abortion policy has yet to be resolved as well, and then there's the tricky, inter-party battles over whether the government should allow people to legally access lower-cost medicines from other countries.
Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, brings the issue up whenever possible, and doesn't appear to be ready to let it go without a fight.
And, let's not forget that the Congressional Budget Office — the arbiter of all things financial on Capitol Hill — has yet to publicly release its estimate of what the new Senate "deal" will cost. The White House says the bill will start reducing costs in the future — no surprise there.
While all these matters still up in the air, and the relentless march of time, a neat and pretty Christmas package of health care changes is looking less likely.
But, it's the Senate. Things always look the bleakest before they break wide open. There's still a little time.