Despite a last-minute weekend deal that put the Senate on the brink of passing health care reform this week, liberal and moderate Democrats remain on a collision course over the bill, as both sides dug in Sunday for the next phase of negotiations.
President Barack Obama’s liberal base and powerful union leaders once hoped the expected House-Senate conference would partly undo a year of retreats and compromises, with Obama weighing in to nudge the moderate Senate bill to the left.
But the titanic struggle to lock in Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) as the 60th senator for the first key test vote early Monday morning has changed all that. The need to hold Nelson and other moderates in line means major changes on the public option, abortion, taxes, Medicare and Medicaid are unlikely — and that the Senate’s vision of health reform is likely to prevail over the House’s in the final talks.
So do they think there will be many more changes to the bill?
“It is very clear that the bill — the final bill — to pass in the United States Senate is going to have to be very close to the bill that has been negotiated here,” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Otherwise, you will not get 60 votes in the United States Senate.”
So who has read the bill anyway and how many pages is it now?