Dems eye yes-no vote on health care


model_toys_Weserhutte_W180_drag_line.summ By Bob L: News As I See It

These Democrats are going to shove this health care up the Americans ass any way they can whether they have the money or not, PRIORITY GET JOBS FIRST then work on health care, or any thing else. There must be a lot of profit to be made in this health bill  if they are pushing this hard for it.
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – White House and Democratic officials are quietly talking with key senators, hoping to craft a thread-the-needle strategy on health care with little or no help from Republicans.

The officials are asking a handful of moderate Democrats to do something that might be hard to explain to voters: Cast a Senate vote that could be interpreted as favoring a bill that the lawmakers ultimately plan to oppose on final passage.

The first vote would help end an expected Republican-led filibuster, allowing a health care bill to reach the full Senate for a yes-or-no roll call vote.

Democratic leaders portray the first vote as a procedural matter, in which party loyalty should prevail. The second vote would be a more meaningful matter of conscience and merit, they say.

They don’t mind having a few Democratic senators oppose the legislation on final passage. By then, it would need only a simple-majority vote — presumably easy to obtain — rather than the super-majority needed to stop filibusters.

While the Senate talks are mostly informal, arm-around-the-shoulder chats, President Barack Obama is practically barnstorming the nation to spur public support for his efforts to revamp the nation’s health care system. He will hold a campaign-like rally Thursday in Maryland, appear on five Sunday morning talk shows, and visit David Letterman’s late-night show on CBS Monday.

White House aides say they fear their political opponents will use any lulls in the debate to renew the fierce attacks that drew so much attention during the August congressional recess. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs rejected the notion that Obama is overexposing himself and diluting his impact.

“This is just an attempt by the president to speak to as many different people as he can on an issue that’s as important as something like health care reform,” Gibbs told reporters Wednesday.

In the Senate’s marble hallways and offices, the quiet talks with moderate Democrats began in earnest about a week ago, officials say, when prospects for GOP help on a health care package seemed as dim as ever. It’s unclear whether they will succeed.

One of the targeted Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, said Wednesday that he has warned party leaders not to assume he will oppose a Republican-led filibuster if he is unhappy with the health bill that emerges from a series of amendment efforts.

Nelson acknowledged that several times over the years he has voted to squelch a filibuster to let a measure reach the Senate floor, even though he opposed the measure itself. In general, he said, he thinks Senate issues deserve a vote on their merits, in which a simple majority is enough for passage.

But “under extraordinary circumstances,” he said, he will vote to sustain a GOP-led filibuster. The health care legislation working its way through Congress could be one of those exceptions, depending on its final shape, Nelson said.

Another Democratic moderate, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, said she is unlikely to vote against a filibuster if she decides to oppose the health care package that emerges. But she said she supports Obama’s main goals, and hopes the eventual Senate measure will include them.

A filibuster is a maneuver that keeps a measure from reaching the Senate floor. It takes 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to cut off a filibuster and clear the way for a simple-majority vote on a bill or nomination.

Democrats control 59 of the Senate’s 100 seats. Massachusetts legislators could act as early as this week to allow a prompt and temporary filling of the seat left vacant by Edward M. Kennedy’s death. That could ease Democratic leaders‘ dilemma, but only if Nelson, Landrieu and all other Democrats stay on board.

If not, Obama’s allies would need at least one Republican to break party ranks. The main focus is on Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who has not said how she will vote.

If 60 votes appear out of reach, Democrats can turn to a more divisive and uncertain tactic known as “budget reconciliation.” It would allow Democrats to pass some, but not all, of the health care provisions with simple-majority votes.

For years, Senate leaders of both parties have argued that “cloture” votes to cut off filibusters are substantially different from votes directly for or against a bill. These procedural votes are not the true measure of a lawmaker’s position on a bill, they say. They urge senators to stand up to political opponents who state otherwise.

“There has always been a higher expectation for caucus support on procedural votes,” said former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat who supports Obama’s health care agenda. “While there is always concern for how these matters will be interpreted, it is fairly arcane when someone is forced to explain ‘cloture’ in a political attack.”

Daschle acknowledged, however, that every vote “is subject to criticism and/or praise.”

The political fallout could be most acute in the states represented by Nelson, Landrieu and another closely watched Senate Democrat, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. All those states voted solidly against Obama last fall. Their senators will have to explain every vote for or against aspects of the health care issue, no matter how arcane.

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