THE VOTES ARE THERE FOR RECONCILIATION, RIGHT?…. Random thought of the day: how many Senate votes do you suppose are there, exactly, for a strong, ambitious, progressive health care bill?
We know with some certainty that there aren’t 60. There are 59 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, and some of them — Lieberman, Landrieu,
Burns Conrad — have already said they won’t support a bold, progressive reform package. Republican support is obviously out of the question.
But reconciliation remains a very real possibility, meaning reform advocates would need a simple majority, not a supermajority. The majority could lose plenty of centrist and center-right Dems, and still pass a great bill. It’s the advantage of having a huge majority.
The question, though, is whether that buffer is quite large enough. I’ve been looking at Jake Tapper’s list of senators who stopped by the White House yesterday for a chat.
They are: Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mark Warner of Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Tom Carper of Delaware, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Many of these senators have expressed concern if not downright opposition to key elements of President Obama’s health care proposal, particularly his push for a government-run public health care option to compete with private insurers to drive down costs.
That’s 17 senators, but the guest list didn’t include Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota or Jon Tester of Montana, neither of whom have staked out positions as champions of an ambitious bill.
To be sure, some of the folks at yesterday’s meeting are almost certain to support a liberal bill that includes a public option. And the majority could lose as many as nine votes and still use reconciliation to pass great legislation.
But if we start counting heads, is it possible that reconciliation wouldn’t work because 10 or more members of the Democratic caucus would balk at a bold reform bill? Like I said, it’s just a random thought of the day.