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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Health Reform Endgame in the Senate Finance Committee

It sometimes seems like the Senate Finance Committee has been deliberating on health care reform legislation for a decade or so. Now that all 500-plus proposed amendments have been disposed of, the Committee appeared to be ready for a vote tomorrow, but the latest buzz is that it’s waiting for a final “score” of the cost of the modified Baucus bill from the Congressional Budget Office, and probably won’t vote until later in the week.
Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic has a thorough analysis of the five shaky votes (four Democrats and one Republican) on final passage, but in the end agrees with this positive assessment from Ezra Klein:

[T]he people I talk to don’t believe there is a single Democrat on the committee who would actually imperil the legislation’s chances. Anyone whose vote is needed will vote for the bill. But if the bill is going to pass comfortably, you might see Snowe withhold her vote to strengthen her negotiating position on the floor of the Senate, or Lincoln hold back because she’s worried about her political standing in Arkansas, or Wyden hold back because he’s genuinely unimpressed with the legislation and infuriated at how he’s been treated. But the bill will pass, and easily. That means health-care reform will have passed all five relevant committees, and is moving toward the floor of the House and the Senate, and after that, the president’s desk.

So even at this late date, there’s a lot of maneuvering on the Finance Committee to position the bill, and senators, for the more important moment when the Finance and HELP versions of heatlh care reform are combined under the direction of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, and the White House and the combined congressional Democratic leadership decides on a strategy for floor action in both Houses. The real endgame remains several steps ahead, but action in Finance keeps the ball rolling.

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