‘Centrists’ want to slam on the brakes

‘CENTRISTS’ WANT TO SLAM ON THE BRAKES…. Even if lawmakers in both chambers recognize the sense of urgency and work hard to bring health care reform to the floor before the August recess, there’s a group of “centrist” senators who prefer to hit the brakes rather than let the legislation proceed.

A bipartisan group of centrist and conservative senators sent a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders on Friday urging delay in consideration of health care reform.

The letter, obtained by the Huffington Post, was drafted by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and is also signed by Democratic Reps. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.). Independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, signed on, as did Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — moderates heavily courted by President Obama.

The organized effort to slow down the process is a blow to the reform effort. Obama has pushed hard for a final vote before the August recess, arguing that delaying until September could slow momentum and risk missing a historic opportunity.

Maybe the six prefer to give opponents of reform more time to kill the effort; perhaps they just didn’t want to work too hard over the next few weeks. Regardless of the motivation, these senators — who already have health care coverage for themselves and their families — saw the reform campaign generating some momentum, and decided they don’t like it. Delay for the sake of delay is the easier path.

As a procedural matter, this makes an enormous difference. The White House has, of course, been pressing for a pre-recess floor vote in both chambers. In light of this new letter from the “centrists,” no matter what the bill looks like in the Senate, there are now Democrats who appear likely to help Republican obstructionism, all in the interest of having more time to … well, whatever it is the “centrists” want with more time.

In other words, with one sad piece of correspondence, these six senators have made a pre-recess vote very unlikely, and undermined the overall campaign.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.