Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep tells us about a conversation he had today with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., about tomorrow's health care "summit" at Blair House and the prospects for health care legislation:
Durbin. (AP/Meet the Press/William B. Plowman)
"We went over to Sen. Durbin's office at the Capitol to meet him this morning. He's the Democratic "whip" — the guy who is supposed to round up votes — and his office is decorated with a specimen of a fierce-looking little creature called a "whip scorpion."
"Right now the health care debate is all about votes. On the eve of a televised meeting between Democrats and Republicans on health care, Durbin said he still hopes to find common ground with Republicans — but made it clear that if they don't, Democrats are ready to move ahead alone.
"Democrats no longer have the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster in the Senate, but they could avoid a filibuster using a process called 'budget reconciliation,' which requires only 51 votes. Durbin said Democrats are 'preparing' to do just that — a process that would have to start with Democratic leaders in the House.
"I asked how definite Durbin was about going forward this way; after all, Republicans have said it would be an outrage, and even moderate Democrats have qualms, though some have begun leaning in favor. 'I hope it doesn't come to that,' he said.
"But, are Democrats willing to pass this bill with zero Republican votes, even though surveys have shown most Americans oppose it right now? 'Of course we are,' Durbin said."
Here's a bit of the conversation; the first voice is Steve's:
Much more of Steve's discussion with the senator is due on tomorrow's Morning Edition. Click here to find an NPR station near you. After it's been on the show, the as-broadcast version of the interview will be posted here.
For ongoing coverage of health-related issues, check NPR's Shots blog. It will be among the many sources for updates during tomorrow's summit.