Dems: Health Care Reform Almost Done — Really!

Bill Clark

Democrats have a spring in their step, suddenly feeling quite confident health care reform is actually going to happen. The particulars are still being worked out, but the majority party sees the pathway ahead and lawmakers and their staff tell us it’s the end game for real.

Sen. Daniel Akaka said in an interview yesterday he knew the hurdles had been cleared when he saw his colleagues ease off their tough stances on the public option and other elements of health care. “It was seeing senators letting go,” Akaka (D-HI) told me at a reception following the Progressive Media Summit hosted by Senate Democrats.

While Akaka said he strongly supports the public option, he does not think the votes are there. He said that freed up Democrats to push forward for the best bill they can get, and House aides told me privately they agree.There’s a sense of momentum on health care that Democrats haven’t felt for months, even when the Senate passed its bill Christmas Eve, Democrats said. What’s more, the majority party is united in realizing they should be painting Republicans as obstructionists at every turn.

Republicans say they will try to block the final health care reform legislation as much as possible, with more ability to slow down the process in the Senate than the House due to the reconciliation process. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) yesterday said it’s likely the GOP will raise points of order against the package of fixes Democrats will push through using the limited reconciliation rules.

“If they want to do that, make ’em talk and talk, nights and weekends if needed,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) told me in an interview at the summit. “Show they are recalcitrant and let them stand on the sidelines.”

Akaka said in his decades in Congress he’s never seen anyone raise the issue challenging the parliamentarian’s ruling on reconciliation.