Fragile Health Care Agreement Fraying? Whispers, But Not Yet

December 23, 2009 1:28 pm

Some Democrats are popping champagne and already writing campaign talking points for how to champion a health care bill they believe President Obama will sign early next year, but today several progressives pulled on the fragile agreement’s thread.

Obama is suggesting they can get right to work and said his White House will remain involved after the final passage of the Senate bill tomorrow, and leaders were hoping for a speedy agreement.

There’s no hard evidence they’ll be denied that victory and TPMDC sources have been saying all week they are tired of Democrats litigating the merits of health care in the press.

House leadership is confident their liberal members may complain loudly but will back the final compromise even if it doesn’t change from the more conservative Senate version.

Some of the rumblings from progressives about holding out on the bill are both predictable and toothless, but today House Rules Chairman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wrote in a CNN op-ed that she thinks the process should begin anew.“It’s time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board,” wrote Slaughter (D-NY).

She is influential in the legislative food chain and has the ear of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But in a sign of the sensitivity of the negotiations, a Slaughter spokesman walked back her column and said she may still vote for the final bill even without her favored provisions.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in a statement today called for a “meaningful conference process” and insisted a public option “must” be included in a final bill.

They did not threaten to oppose the measure without the public option and the employer mandate and affordability provisions they want.

Rep. Joe Sestak wrote Pelosi a letter asking her to keep fighting and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told Fox New Radio today there is no way the House will “rubber-stamp” the Senate bill.

SEIU’s Andy Stern told TPMDC today that he can see the good things in the bill and stopped short of calling for another round.

It’s unclear if it’s just-for-show fighting or if some members really want to derail and start over. Sources TPMDC has been talking with over the last few days say leadership will eventually call progressives’ bluff and get them to support the final measure. They also are starting to see some hopeful signs they will pick up votes from Blue Dogs who opposed the House plan.

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