Saturday, December 19, 2009

Getting Closer

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has got all the Democrats on board with his final version of the healthcare bill.

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the final Democratic holdout on health care, was prepared to announce to his caucus Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas.

“We’re there,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), as he headed into a special meeting to announce the deal.

Democratic leaders spent days trying to hammer out a deal with Nelson, and worked late Friday night with Nelson on abortion coverage language that had proved the major stumbling block. But Nelson also secured other favors for his home state.

Asked if he was prepared to support the bill, Nelson said, “Yeah.”

With Nelson seemingly on board, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid unveiled the final version of a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health insurance system that would expand coverage to an additional 31 million Americans, coming closer to attaining the Democrats’ longsought goal of universal medical coverage.

Note that I said “all the Democrats.” That’s 58; Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Joe Lieberman are Independents, and Mr. Lieberman is in Connecticut today. Mr. Sanders has indicated that even if he doesn’t vote for the bill, he won’t filibuster it, and but if Mr. Lieberman doesn’t like it — for whatever reason this week — they’re going to need at least one other vote from some place. As goes Maine….

They’re not there yet, and it’s snowing like crazy in Washington. In Petoskey, Michigan, where I lived for six years, that would be considered a heavy frost, but it could slow things down. (And I am sure there are some religious whackos who consider this to be “divine intervention.” No, that would be a plague of locusts.) So stay tuned.