By the time President Obama was wheels up on Air Force One and headed for Hawaii, most West Wing staffers were kicking back with the families and recharging after a long slog to get health care reform passed in the Senate.
But it’s going to pick up again right quick.
Sources tell TPMDC the No. 1 goal is to get the victory to hold come 2010 when the House and Senate begin negotiations on the final measure. It was a fragile Senate coalition to get to 60, and they are going to have to do it all over again before agreement is reached on a final measure.
Aides say the health care team is taking a breather for a few days but will get right back to work as soon as possible.
Formal conferees to merge the House and Senate bills won’t be named for awhile by Congressional leadership, but the informal negotiations are already under way. Leadership and administration aides have already identified the sticking points and they are treading carefully.
A source suggested the administration’s health care team will have talks via phone with leadership as early as next week, though no formal channel is likely to be established before New Year’s.Obama made a point today to phone an Arkansas man whose insurance had been rescinded, a call that would surely be noticed by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), a vote the Democrats need to keep.
The president also said this week he’ll be rolling up his sleeves to get involved as well.
TPMDC has kept a close eye on statements coming from progressive groups and lawmakers who have threatened not to support a final deal unless it changes significantly. It is Christmas Eve, but the variety of statements (view them all here) that came to our inbox today suggest compromise is on the horizon.
The Chamber of Commerce and AHIP aren’t happy, but most of the interest groups with power to build Democratic “no” votes have issued hopeful statements without clear lines in the sand.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats they will hear from angry constituents over the break and Republicans say they hope for an August repeat that will tear apart the fragile coalition Democrats built.
Please let TPM know what you’re hearing across the country. How members are treated when they come home for the holidays will be a major factor in how the final deal goes down.