The Alternative Is Catastrophe
January 11, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Reaching agreement on a health care bill is harder in theory than it will be in practice. Between now and the day the measure goes to President Obama's desk, there will be many crisis points, much posturing and dire warnings of impending failure. There are real differences between the bills passed by the House and the Senate. The last few votes are always the most difficult to get. But more than negotiators can afford to acknowledge openly, there is broad agreement on the kinds of concessions the Senate can make to the House and still preserve the 60 votes needed for passage.

Medicaid (Help) For All?
January 08, 2010

  Under heavy political fire from left and right for his so-called “Cornhusker Kickback,” Ben Nelson said Thursday that he has begun negotiating with the Senate leadership to expand his Medicaid funding deal to all states.

Red States vs. Blue States on Medicaid
January 08, 2010

Though Republicans were among the first to assail Ben Nelson’s Medicaid carve-out for Nebraska, they’ve hardly been the only critics of the deal and the bill’s expansion of the entitlement program. In recent weeks, Blue State governors and other officials have piled on the Democratic leaders of the reform effort for forcing their states to pony up too much for the Medicaid expansion. Even Democratic allies who had previously been supportive of the reform effort – including Mike Bloomberg, David Paterson, and Arnold Schwezenegger – have begun airing their criticisms.

Playing With House Money
January 07, 2010

If there’s one area in which the House health care reform bill is obviously superior to the Senate version, it’s coverage and affordability. There’s more financial assistance for buying insurance and much stronger protection against out-of-pocket medical costs. That means more people getting coverage and fewer people struggling with expenses. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies, both on and off Capitol Hill, have made clear this is one of their top priorities for the coming negotiations over how to merge the two pieces of legislation.

One Vote Down, Three to Go
December 21, 2009

In the wee hours of Monday morning, the Democrats won the first of four votes necessary to pass health care reform legislation. The vote was procedural, over whether to end debate on Harry Reid's "manager's amendment." With all forty Republicans joining a filibuster, it took the votes of all sixty senators in the Democratic caucus to proceed. The moment was not exceptionally dramatic, given that the last Democratic holdout, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, had declared his support on Saturday. During the floor debate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a plea for "just one" of the bill's supporters to

BREAKING: Nelson Says Yes; That Makes 60
December 19, 2009

The Washington Post is reporting, and multiple independent sources are now confirming, that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has said he will support the Senate Democrats' health care reform bill. That would give Majority Leader Harry Reid the 60 votes necessary to break a Republican filibuster and pass the legislation. After weeks of negotiation that culminated in a 13-hour session  yesterday, the clincher was some tinkering with Medicaid to help his state and modified abortion language. Critically, the language does not seem to have cost the support of abortion rights advocates in the Senate.

Ben Nelson, Still a Big Problem (Updated)
December 17, 2009

In a local radio interview this morning, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson indicated that he remains a "no" for now. He's not satisfied with the compromise on abortion that Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey proposed. He's not happy about the burden the Medicaid expansion places on states. He's not content with the level of cost control. He could be posturing, of course, but this is entirely consistent with what he's been saying all along. And it's why insiders have been warning he'd be harder to win over than Joe Lieberman. (Time's Amy Sullivan is among those not at all surprised at this deveopment.

Pssst. This Isn't Over. (Updated)
December 15, 2009

Via Politico, here's what Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson said as he left a White House meeting with the rest of the Democratic caucus a little while ago: I’m not on the bill. I have spoken with the president and he knows they are not wrapped up today. I think everybody understands they are not wrapped up today and that impression will not be given. A lot of people are treating today as the end of the debate, for better or worse, now that the Democrats have shelved the public option and Joe Lieberman appears ready to support the Senate bill.

Reid Has the Votes, At Least Tonight
November 21, 2009

Tonight, at around 8 p.m., the Senate will vote on a "motion to proceed" with the debate over health care reform. To be clear, this isn't actually a vote on whether to pass health care reform--or even a vote on whether to hold such a vote. It's a vote on whether to begin talking about whether to have a vote on whether to pass health care reform. And yet the outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

The Dodgy Political Punditry of Moderate Dems
November 05, 2009

One of the most frustrating consequences of an Election Day like Tuesday is that it invariably (if fleetingly) transforms moderate politicians with no particular insight into the dynamics of public opinion into all-knowing sages. More to the point, it elevates their perfect-for-every-occasion view of politics, which says that if your party suffers a setback, the reason must be that it was too far to one side of the political spectrum, and so the answer is obviously to move back to the middle.