After the Senate narrowly voted to beging debating Democrats' health care reform legislation, President Obama said he now looks forward to "a thorough and productive debate."
But many hurdles lie between here and the finish line — a "significant, formidable and never-ending list," one top Senate Democratic aide says.
First come the amendments. Moderate democrats have already said they oppose the public option in the bill right now to compete with private insurers with the goal of driving down costs.
"Let me be perfectly clear," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who looks to have a tough reelection context next year. "I am opposed to a new government-run insurance option."
But other Democrats have said the bill wont be true reform without the public option, and they may not vote for a bill without it.
Other amendments that could be problematic address whether women receiving government subsidies can buy insurance policies that cover abortion, and whether illegal immigrants can use the health insurance exchange.
Republicans plan on going after the plan's source of funding, forcing Democrats to make tough votes to keep the bill's proposed tax increases and Medicare cuts. One GOP amendment would prohibit any tax increases from hitting individuals making $200,000 a year and under, one of President Obama's signature campaign pledges.
Other hurldes — downward sliding poll numbers for both President Obama and the Democrats' health care reform effort — especially in Red states home to moderate Democrats such as Arkansas, Nebraska and Louisiana.
Then there are the conservative celebrities out on book tours, criticizing the Democrats' plans. This is a hurdle Democrats hope to knock down. In an email to supporters the president's former campaign committee called Sarah Palin's attacks "dangerous," saying she has helped enable "false attacks by special interests and partisan extremists."