Sherrod Brown: Still No Health Care Reform Strategy

January 22, 2010 12:23 p.m.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is engaged with House progressives, trying to tease out a solution to the health care reform impasse–but he says that at the highest levels of the Senate and the White House, there’s still no plan, and he doubts whether President Obama will insert himself forcefully into the process.

Brown, who traveled with Obama today in Ohio, tells me “I’ve talked to Reid, I’ve talked to Obama. Unclear yet what the strategy is, but clear interest, strong interest in getting as strong a bill as we can get.”

One of the problems with the so-called Plan B approach, wherein the House passes the Senate bill, and then an amendment package is advanced through a filibuster-proof process, is that it’s unclear whether the entire fix bill can survive the so-called budget reconciliation process.“We need a better education on reconciliation–how we can write a reconciliation bill as broad as we need to,” Brown says. “I know what the goal is, and the goal is to do it–not necessarily start next week–but the goal is to do it as quickly as possible, but not to slow down on job creation.”

Brown says he is in regular contact with House progressives–he held three meetings just this week. But though he’ll be stepping up those meetings, they aren’t part of a broader Senate strategy, as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said this week.

Based on his conversations with House progressives, Brown says the mood right now is fairly dour.

“They’re very unhappy,” Brown admits. “Their viewpoint is it can’t be just the Senate version because, first of all, it’s not what they want in terms of the substance, and second it really writes them out of having any impact.”

Nevertheless, he doesn’t imagine the President will lay out a way forward in his State of the Union address next week, and he won’t push any buttons in the Senate.

“I doubt if he does, I don’t think he’ll do a procedural thing. I don’t think he will engage in process,” Brown said of State of the Union.

Traveling with Obama today, he and House members from Ohio aired suggestions and opinions about how to get the Senate back into the game–but Obama’s not on the same page. “Everybody had opinions about what the President should do [vis-a-vis the Senate and particular senators],” Brown told me. “But he ain’t bitin’.”

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