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The Hill: Rep. Waters: Dems who say healthcare is 'on life support are correct'

February 2, 2010
In The News

by Tony Romm

Add Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) to the list of Democrats who now say their healthcare reform bills are imperiled.

During an interview on Friday, the congresswoman stressed it was going to be "very difficult" to pass that legislation in the coming weeks, mostly because House and Senate leaders are still without a "roadmap" and have yet to address key policy differences between the two chambers' efforts.

"I suspect that the people who say it's on life support are correct," Waters added, referencing Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor's (Ark.) similar remarks earlier this week.

Democrats healthcare reform bill remains at a crossroads this week for a number of reasons, mostly political.

Senate Democrats no longer have a 60-vote majority in the chamber, following the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, creating the likelihood of a healthcare filibuster.

Consequently, the party could try to pass their bill through the 51-vote reconciliation process, but Democratic aides last week said they feared that strategy would open their bill to an infinite number of GOP amendments, which would further delay passage.

House lawmakers could instead pass the Senate bill, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressed this month she lacks the votes to try that. Conversely, the chamber could pass a scaled-down healthcare bill, or they could break it up into smaller chunks, but the chamber's liberals hardly support that call.

Worse yet, those political arguments only sit atop a mound of policy debates over abortion, taxes, care delivery, coverage and a host of other issues, lawmakers have previously pointed out.

Those concerns have prompted a number of prominent Democrats to suggest the bill is not going to reach the president's desk, even within the next month. The possibility for additional delay has even prompted Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) to stress there is "no rush" to pass a bill, as Democrats still have a year to finish legislation before it expires.

But Waters on Friday implored her party to "throw down the gauntlet." Referring to GOP opposition, she said Senate Democrats in particular had to "go for it" and force Republicans to follow through on their filibuster threats.

"I agree with the president in his State of the Union address," she added, "and he said we've come to far to turn back now."