Senate Leadership To House: Health Care’s On You

UPI/Newscom
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After an early morning meeting today, members of the Senate Democratic leadership said outright what many suspected after last night’s election: The fate of health care rests with the House.

I asked Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Democratic Steering Committee, whether there was any chance Senate Democrats would embark on another round of health care votes if the House sent a modified bill back their way.

“I think at this point, given the new senator from Massachusetts’ position, I think that that would be tough to do,” she said.

Asked whether the fate of reform rested with the House, Democratic Conference Secretary Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), said, “I think so.”

So what’s next for the Senate? Leaders and rank and file members say: Jobs, jobs, jobs.“The country is speaking to us, and we will show we hear them in the agenda we pursue over the next year,” reads a statement from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to TPMDC. “Our focus must be on jobs, the economy and delivering for the middle class.”

“Well there’s no willingness to abandon ship on health care, because health care relates to jobs,” Stabenow said. “But at the same time, we’ve always said that we want to refocus on jobs, so we’re going to focus on jobs and the economy.”

Does that mean the Senate leaves health care to the House and pivots quickly?

“I would say all of the above,” she said.

“They want us to focus on jobs, and the creation of jobs at a faster rate,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who will be introducing a draft of legislation offering tax credits to business owners who increase their payrolls.

“I voted on Christmas Eve for the Senate [health care] bill. It’s a very good bill. I would hope the House could, at a minimum, pass that bill,” Casey added. “But, I’m not paid to be a head-counter in the House.”

His sentiments were echoed by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who says there’s little alternative but to hand health care to the House. “I think, yeah. (Said hesitantly). I think that would be one alternative. I don’t think its a good idea, and I said to the leader, I don’t think its a good idea to try to pass another bill in the Senate before Sen. Scott Brown is seated.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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