The message from about a dozen Democratic senators to their negotiators in the coming House-Senate conference on health care reform is "don't fiddle with the senate version too much or we're gone."
The Hill's Alexander Bolton:
Centrists have said they will not vote for a healthcare reform bill that imposes a tax surcharge on the nation's highest income earners or reduces the tax burden on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans, which are held by many unionized workers.
They have also threatened to vote against the bill if it includes a government-run health insurance program, a proposal that liberal Democrats in Congress acknowledge has little chance of winning inclusion in the final bill.
Lawmakers in the House will have to accept the Senate legislation with little change if a final bill is to muster 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles and make it to President Barack Obama's desk, the centrists say.
"There's very little room for this bill to change," said Landrieu. "The framework really has to stay basically in place.
"It's not just me," Landrieu added. "There are probably two-dozen Democratic senators who feel very strongly about the framework."
Landrieu said she would not support the final legislation if negotiators tinkered with the Senate proposal for taxing high-cost insurance plans.
"I can only support a bill if the Cadillac plans are taxed at the level they are in the Senate [bill,]" said Landrieu. "It's not because I'm thrilled about taxing those plans, which I'm not, but it is the No. 1 cost-containment measure in the bill. It's what is going to drive costs down over time."
It appears that liberals in the House have no stomach for a fight on their major issue; the public option. And Nancy Pelosi may very well cede large swaths of the battlefield to the senate in order to get something passed.
But the battle over abortion language may yet cause a lot of problems. It all depends on how badly the liberals want the bill and are willing to anger their feminist base.