Federal Healthcare Update

November 23, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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Saturday evening, the Senate voted to begin considering the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The 60-39 vote along party lines clears the way for debate on the bill to begin after Thanksgiving. Last minute commitments from Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) gave Majority Leader Harry Reid the minimum number of votes needed to begin considering the measure, although all four of these senators have made it clear that their vote does not mean that they will be voting for the bill itself. Sen. Lieberman has stated that he will vote against any bill that includes a public option, and Sen. Nelson has said that he may support a public option with an opt-in provision, but will not vote for the current plan, which has an opt-out. In light of the schisms within the caucus, Democratic leaders have renewed efforts to get moderate Republican Senators such as Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on board with the bill. However, altering the bill to appeal to moderate Republicans may have unintended negative consequences for the Democratic caucus.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, has stated that he will not vote for a bill that does not have a public option.
Debate on the bill will begin November 30th, and will likely continue through the month of December.