Health Care Reform Grinds to Stop|at Legislative Half-Way Station

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday signaled a full stop on the train headed toward health care reform. Still absorbing their loss of a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, leading Democrats said they are reassessing their legislative options.

     The slowdown comes after the well publicized win of Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in liberal Massachusetts in a bid to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s seat on the U.S. Senate.
     While House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer remained optimistic when speaking Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., he appeared to stand alone.
     Hoyer noted that Senator Brown voted for the Massachusetts state health plan while serving in state government and said that 68 percent of the state supports health care reform. “So it’s somewhat ironic that somebody would extrapolate from the vote in Massachusetts a concern solely about health care,” he said.
     But other lawmakers appear to have a different perspective. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is now saying that there is no rush on health care, after pushing for a Senate vote on the bill last August.
     Appearing to change gears, Reid noted during Tuesday remarks that the Democratic Congress still has most of the year to continue working on the health bill before the elections, the New York Times reported.
     Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln and Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh – both up for reelection this year – took centrist stances in announcing that they would not use reconciliation , a procedural process, to force through health care legislation.
     And on Monday, Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson took his own swipes at the health reform by blasting unfunded federal mandates – a component of the health bills.
     The election destroyed the ability of Democrats to pass legislation over a Republican invocation of filibuster and the extra Republican voice poses a significant threat to the passage of the health bill.
     House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has said that passing the Senate version of the bill – a process that could circumvent the Senate, where Brown now sits – is likely out of the question.
     The House and Senate have narrowly passed two separate versions of the bill and party leaders are now negotiating a reconciliation of the two.
     The White House has said it is for an approach to push health care through using a procedural approach that only requires 51 Senate votes, but which can only be used for budget issues.

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