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There seemed to be enough lawmakers on the Sunday news shows the day after a major health care reform vote to make up a quorum, but the one clear message that emerged was the long and difficult road the legislation has to go in the Senate.
While New York Sen. Charles Schumer said on CBS Face the Nation that "now, the wind is at our back," Democrats wrestled with questions about how to keep aboard some in the party who were willing to vote to get debate started on the Senate floor, but still harbored serious reservations about provisions in the bill, particularly the government-sponsored "public option" to compete with private insurers.
Republicans - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and senators Tom Coburn, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Lamar Alexander - asserted that the public is opposed to the Democratic measure because of its cost and extent of government intervention. They said the cost and mandates in the bill would hurt the economy and job creation, with Tennessee's Lamar Alexander saying on Fox News Sunday, "The best job summit we could have is to beat the health care bill."
Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, on CNN's State of the Union, echoed Alexander, calling the bill a "job-killer" because of the costs it would impose on small businesses.
McConnell pointed to what even several Democrats acknowledged was their potential Achilles' heel in getting passage of the bill produced by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid - namely the small group of moderate Democrats, plus independent Joseph Lieberman, who oppose parts of the legislation.
"If the majority is hell-bent on ignoring the wishes of the American people, they have 60 votes in the Senate. You would think that they might be able to do this, but I believe there are a number of Democratic senators who do care what the American people think and are not interested in this sort of arrogant approach," McConnell said.
Lieberman, on NBC's Meet the Press, said "I don't think anybody thinks this bill will pass as written" and added that while he voted yesterday to bring the measure to the floor, he might not again side with Democrats to head off filibusters on provisions, like the public option, which he staunchly opposes.
"Once the bill is on the floor ...amendments will be offered, but essentially every amendment is subject to a filibuster and will take 60 votes to pass," Lieberman said. "My only resort and every other senator ...and there will be others who feel exactly the way I do about the public option ... if the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say 'no' at the end to reporting the bill off the floor."
Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson said on ABC's This Week he voted to bring the bill to the floor, despite his reservations, because "when I saw the bill, I said, 'This can be amended. It can be improved.'"
Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who were the two Democratic votes in doubt yesterday, also have problems with the public option position, but when asked if the Democratic leadership could find the votes to keep it in the bill, Schumer expressed optimism because the version Reid included was more modest than some had been pressing for.
"I believe we can (get the votes)," Schumer said. "This is a modest public option. Many of those folks, when I spoke to them over the course of the last several months, their great fear was ...that this would transmogrify into a government plan and would knock out everybody else... I think the proposal that Leader Reid wisely put into his bill, which is a moderate, modest proposal, sort of, in the middle of public option land -- there are some on the left who don't like it; they want it to be more liberal, some on the right -- will, at the end of the day, be where we end up."
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown struck a more aggressive note than Schumer on CNN, saying "I think, in the end, I don't want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it's not going to be in it."
"In the end, this is going to be a compromise," said New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on CNN. "It's not going to be a perfect bill, but it's going to be a very important starting point."
Sen. Richard Durbin said on NBC that it was a "must" to get the health care legislation approved before the end of the year so that Congress could refocus its attention on the economy and getting people back to work.
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