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18 November 2017 23:42 (South Africa)

Dems threaten (tactical) nuclear strike on health bill

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Democrats are hinting that they may call on an infrequently used tactic to close debate via a simple majority when the health care system reform billfinally comes to the floor in the Senate. Though the party controls the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster, two of its crucial members have been sidelined. Moreover, if it came to a floor fight in the Senate, Democratic party leaders may not be able to ensure moderate Democrats would support the proposal – or agree to end debate on it either. This nuclear option would effectively end any chance for bipartisan support for this centrepiece of Obama’s domestic agenda. On the other hand, failure on health care reform could seriously weaken Obama’s ability to wield his influence in future foreign or domestic battles. Obama is increasingly caught between Republicans (and those fiscally conservative ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats) who oppose a larger government role in health care or worry about the budget-busting implications on the one hand, and those liberal Democrats who insist Obama must keep his key campaign pledge to ensure the ±50 million Americans without health insurance can get it, on the other. Evolving from an increasingly acrimonious health care debate in Congress and around the nation, as well as growing criticism of his economic and budget policies, Obama’s polling numbers are sliding. The newest Washington Post-ABC News survey found only 49 percent believe the president will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent a few months ago. And Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who usually caucuses with the Democrats, has urged Obama to postpone health care reform, saying “I'm afraid we've got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy's out of recession.”

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