Molasses moves faster

MOLASSES MOVES FASTER…. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is pushing an amendment to the health care reform bill that seems pretty uncontroversial. The Mikulski measure would require private insurers to provide additional screenings and preventive services for women, include screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer, and post-partum depression. The amendment isn’t expensive, and has plenty of supporters on the Hill.

But Democratic hopes of approving the measure were dashed in the face of Republican objections.

A disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over whether to hold a vote on Ms. Mikulski’s proposal offers early evidence of the acrimony that could inflect and hamper the debate over major health care legislation for weeks to come.

Ms. Mikulski’s proposal was the first amendment put forward in debate, and Democrats had hoped to vote on it Tuesday evening.

But every amendment to the bill is potentially subject to unlimited debate — also known as a filibuster. And overcoming a filibuster requires a lengthy process and the agreement of at least 60 senators. Democrats would probably win such a vote on Ms. Mikulski’s amendment, but doing so could eat up the rest of this week.

This comes after Republicans objected to a measure to post the language of amendments online.

The debate began about 48 hours ago, and since then, four amendments have been considered, and none has been voted on. This is clearly going to take a while.

On a related note, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who has apparently become the leading intra-party negotiator, intends to unveil a new compromise on the public option next week, after behind-the-scenes talks with liberal Dems, conservative Dems, and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Details are sketchy, but apparently, the latest version would “establish a national public insurance program founded by the government but managed by a non-governmental board. In addition, the plan would be unable to access any taxpayer dollars beyond its initial seed money.”

For what it’s worth, while larger process isn’t pretty, the WaPo noted that Senate Democrats are “increasingly” optimistic “that they would succeed in passing a bill before Christmas.”

“We’re all talking to one another right now,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.