Herding Cats at the White House

By Britt

Dec 15, 2009 9:06am

After meeting with a clowder of "fat cats" (i.e. bank executives) yesterday, President Obama will this afternoon attempt to "herd cats" — getting Senators to cooperate and pass health care reform legislation.

He will speak to all 60 Senators who caucus with the Democrats — 58 Democratic senators and independents Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

His message, White House officials say, will be for them to get health care reform done, that this may be the last chance.

He will point out the unlikelihood of Congress trying to take up the complicated issue in 2010, an election year, the near-impossibility of a president trying to do this during the end of his first term or the entirety of his second. This is the moment, he will say. And whatever differences the Senators have about the bill, they need to reconcile them and get this done for the American people, he will say, because he bill will bend the curve of health care costs, cover millions more of the uninsured, protect those who have insurance, ad reduce the deficit.

Whether that will be enough for those senators who have serious issues with the bill remains to be seen, of course.

The White House has been working with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to achieve 60 votes — and the pool from which they can draw is small, including just the 60 senators who caucus with the Democrats and the Maine moderates, Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., and Susan Collis, R-Me.

The White House does not what Reid to use the "reconciliation" rules requiring them to achieve only a 51 vote majority to pass the legislation, instead of the normal 60-vote senate hurdle to proceed to vote; the president does not want to be seen as ramming this significant bill through the Senate. So this means President Obama wants Reid to cut a deal with those final Senate hold-outs — notably Lieberman and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

- jpt

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