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Senate version of health bill may be unveiled today

Senate version of health bill may be unveiled today
By Eric Black

Both the NYTimes and the WashPost quote Harry Reid saying that he’s on the verge of bringing the Senate version of the health insurance bill to the floor. But the stories are almost mirror opposites in terms of their underlying optimism/pessimism about what this means for the bill.

The Post is the optimistic version. Reid has decided not to go the reconciliation route (a bit of procedural trickery that would get around the need for a filibuster-proof 60 votes). And he says he’s got an excellent CBO score. And he’s “cautiously optimistic” that he’s got the 60 votes to bring it to the floor. If you’re not reading carefully, you could take that to mean he has a filibuster-proof majority behind the bill, but it’s not even close to that. He’s only talking about the votes to get the bill onto the floor to start the debate. The really big cloture vote comes at the other end of the debate, after all amendments, a vote to shut down the expected Republican filibuster and vote on final passage of the bill.

The Times piece makes clear that Reid has three members of his own caucus (Dem. Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Ark., Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) and Ben Nelson (Nebraska) who are still not even sure they want to allow the vote to come to the floor for debate.

Congress expert Kathryn Pearson of the U of M says the whole deal is more evidence of the still growing hyper-partisanship of the atmosphere in Congress and of the still relatively new willingness of whichever party is in the minority to use the filibuster routinely to block action.

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