Saturday night there had been a promising report. Promising, if you agree with the ever-growing “kill the bill” crowd, which includes everyone but the Democratic congressional leadership and the White House:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a marathon negotiating session Friday with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in a hectic bid to persuade the last holdout to sign onto the health-care reform bill ahead of a key deadline Saturday morning. . . Nelson left a meeting in Reid’s office, telling reporters, “There’s no deal.”
The sanest statement to come out of Capitol Hill this week had been from Nelson, who declared: “Harry has some time frames he is thinking about. . . But I don’t have a deadline. To me, you have to get it right.” That suggested that Nelson was either a cagey negotiator intent on maximizing his leverage or that he was bent on upsetting the entire apple cart, pushing through the Christmas deadline, and forcing Congress to face the voters. It turns out he was the former.
As morning dawned in snow-blanketed D.C. news reports buzzed that Nelson had come around. Nothing like some Medicaid funding to buy off the Nebraska holdout. The so-called manager’s amendment with the abortion language and nearly four hundred more pages of other decisive language appeared early Saturday morning, but still with no CBO scoring. Aides and activists are scrambling to read and understand the language. It appears as though states will be allowed to opt out of coverage for abortion services (provided they aren’t otherwise legally required to fund abortions). However, taxpayer money will still be used to subsidize those purchasing insurance that covers abortion services in states that don’t opt out. If so, Nelson has abandoned his pro-life allies.
Aside from all the details and the mind-numbing irresponsibility of the entire undertaking, it is the legislative maneuvering which is most striking. The process suggests just how afraid of the voters the Democrats must be. If the timing plays out as planned, a final cloture vote may come in the middle of the night on Monday. Now, if they can’t vote in broad daylight on a weekday after allowing the public to view the bill for a few days, then really, how awful must it be?
UPDATE: Nelson sold out his pro-life allies but Rep. Bart Stupak may not do the same.