'Message amendments' will be offered as senate debate over reform bill opens

Both sides plan on offering amendments to the health care reform debate that opens today that have little chance of passage, but will send clear political messages to their supporters that their concerns are being addressed.

With barely three weeks to go before the Christmas break - Harry Reid's deadline for passage of the final bill - it seems unlikely that there will be a vote before then. Both Democrats and Republicans will offer amendments to gut the bill and enhance its statist objectives.

Naftali Bendavid writing in the Wall Street Journal:

Any of the amendments will also likely require 60 votes to pass, because opponents can threaten to filibuster any amendment that has less support. That sets a high bar, but even unsuccessful amendments can send a message.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), for example, is expected to offer an amendment to insert tough abortion restrictions in the bill, mirroring language in the bill that narrowly passed the House Nov. 7. Republicans are also likely to offer at least one amendment limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.

Republicans have complained repeatedly about Medicare cuts and tax increases in the bill. They plan to introduce amendments to highlight these criticisms and put Democrats in a tough spot, for example offering language saying that no one who makes under $200,000 would get a tax increase.

Although the bill was crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), Democrats, too, have points to make, especially the liberal wing. Sen. John Rockefeller (D., W.V.) says he will probably offer an amendment to strengthen the public option, a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, plans to offer measures to strengthen states' ability to adopt a single-payer health-care system, in which the government is the main entity paying health-care bill. Mr. Sanders also wants to block states from "opting out" of the public option and expand the number of people eligible for the bill's insurance exchange.

This is a mine field that will test Reid's leadership abilities to the max. Any one of these amendments could kill the bill if passed. Although it's not likely that will happen, nobody thought the anti-abortion amendment would pass in the House either. Reid's job will be to keep enough Democrats on the reservation so that no one amendment can sabatoge the bill

The GOP meanwhile will use the amendment process to hammer away at tax increases, abortion, illegal immigration, and the public option - all guaranteed to keep the fires burning hot among their supporters while showing the American people just how bad this bill truly is.

While the Democrats have momentum, nothing is set in stone. There is still a good chance that enough Democrats can be pried away from Reid so that when a vote comes to shut off debate and vote, he will fall short of the 60 votes required to end a filibuster.

At that point, the Armageddon option - reconciliation - may make an appearance. If so, a simple majority will mean the bill's passage.

This debate is shaping up to be historic and probably very contentious. Fireworks should start early as Senator Hatch plans to introduce his anti-abortion amendment this week
.



Both sides plan on offering amendments to the health care reform debate that opens today that have little chance of passage, but will send clear political messages to their supporters that their concerns are being addressed.

With barely three weeks to go before the Christmas break - Harry Reid's deadline for passage of the final bill - it seems unlikely that there will be a vote before then. Both Democrats and Republicans will offer amendments to gut the bill and enhance its statist objectives.

Naftali Bendavid writing in the Wall Street Journal:

Any of the amendments will also likely require 60 votes to pass, because opponents can threaten to filibuster any amendment that has less support. That sets a high bar, but even unsuccessful amendments can send a message.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), for example, is expected to offer an amendment to insert tough abortion restrictions in the bill, mirroring language in the bill that narrowly passed the House Nov. 7. Republicans are also likely to offer at least one amendment limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.

Republicans have complained repeatedly about Medicare cuts and tax increases in the bill. They plan to introduce amendments to highlight these criticisms and put Democrats in a tough spot, for example offering language saying that no one who makes under $200,000 would get a tax increase.

Although the bill was crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), Democrats, too, have points to make, especially the liberal wing. Sen. John Rockefeller (D., W.V.) says he will probably offer an amendment to strengthen the public option, a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, plans to offer measures to strengthen states' ability to adopt a single-payer health-care system, in which the government is the main entity paying health-care bill. Mr. Sanders also wants to block states from "opting out" of the public option and expand the number of people eligible for the bill's insurance exchange.

This is a mine field that will test Reid's leadership abilities to the max. Any one of these amendments could kill the bill if passed. Although it's not likely that will happen, nobody thought the anti-abortion amendment would pass in the House either. Reid's job will be to keep enough Democrats on the reservation so that no one amendment can sabatoge the bill

The GOP meanwhile will use the amendment process to hammer away at tax increases, abortion, illegal immigration, and the public option - all guaranteed to keep the fires burning hot among their supporters while showing the American people just how bad this bill truly is.

While the Democrats have momentum, nothing is set in stone. There is still a good chance that enough Democrats can be pried away from Reid so that when a vote comes to shut off debate and vote, he will fall short of the 60 votes required to end a filibuster.

At that point, the Armageddon option - reconciliation - may make an appearance. If so, a simple majority will mean the bill's passage.

This debate is shaping up to be historic and probably very contentious. Fireworks should start early as Senator Hatch plans to introduce his anti-abortion amendment this week
.



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