These days, the status and the support for the Senate health care bill seems to change by the hour. Over the weekend, Senator Joseph Lieberman said he couldn’t support the bill in its current form because of the expansion of Medicare through the buy-in compromise and the public option. And this week, amid much pressure and media attention, he’s sticking to his guns.
With other moderate Democrats vacillating on their votes as poll numbers continue to slip for support of this bill to all-time lows, can Harry Reid and Senate Democrats get this done by the arbitrary timeline of Christmas?
It’s likely something will get done, but questions about who, what, when and how still remain. Right now Senate Democrats are struggling to find the 60 votes they need to block a filibuster from Republicans who say the Democrat's proposed health care plan is too expensive and too bureaucratic--ironically, the main reasons Democrats argued we needed this plan in the first place.
What's the rush?
Senate Majority Leader Reid and his counterparts need to pass this bill because the longer they wait, the more likely its chances of dying on the vine become plausible. Plus, the American people want to see Washington focused on jobs -- not health care. The longer they spend talking about this (and it's been a while), the more disillusioned Democrats will look, and the more frustrated the voters will get (here’s the kicker) in an ELECTION year.
Moderates like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln and Lieberman might not be Reid's only problem. In a shocking twist, liberals are hearing the pragmatic opposition make threats and some are now suddenly starting to sing off the same sheet music as Republicans in a push to scrap the entire thing. It’s looking like some liberal Democrats might defect if the bill becomes watered down and stripped of its most questionable portions.
According to Greg Sargent of The Plum Line Blog, Howard Dean, de-facto leader of the progressive movement, in an interview "said the removal of the Medicare buy-in made the bill not worth supporting, and urged Dem leaders to start over with the process of reconciliation in the interview."
For the first time, I actually agree with Dean!
In the words of Dean, himself: “Yeeeeooooow!”
If liberals like Howard Dean and Obama-replacement Illinois Senator Roland Burris are poised to bail on a bill without a public option, how can Reid herd these cats?
To their credit, Republicans are fighting back, and hard. They are smartly messaging this as Democrats wanting to do this for themselves and Obama for his own lasting legacy.
On "60 Minutes" this past Sunday, Obama noted that though many have tried to pass health reform in his party, they’ve all failed, but that he would be the one to get it done.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spelled it out perfectly on Tuesday:
“The supporters of this bill seem to think this is about them, about their legacies. This isn’t about them. This is about the American people. This is not about making history. This about doing the right thing for ever single American’s health care. And Americans have a message: Higher premiums, higher taxes, and higher health care costs are not what they signed up for. This is not what they were promised. This is not reform. Yes: Doing nothing is not an option. But making current problems worse is worse.”
Stay tuned. The standoff on health care reform is taking place right before our eyes. More and more, it’s looking like the gift that the left wants to give the American people for Christmas – the one that most of us don’t want – won’t end up under the tree. Sounds like a Merry Christmas to me.
Andrea Tantaros is a conservative columnist and FoxNews.com contributor. Follow her on Twiter: @andreatantaros.