The days in the Nation's Capitol are frigid like most of the country. With temperatures in the low teens, most of the city is sequestered in their homes and offices. Not so up on the Hill and in the White House as Democrats and President Obama meet frequently to push a reconciliation bill into final form. The question is whether there has been a loss of support by those on the fence Democratic senators for a bill that the public has now learned of the backroom deals required for passage.
According to reports in the Washington Post, the President has been meeting twice weekly with the Democratic leadership in both houses and with key (or on the fence) senators in order to move a bill for passage and signature before his State of the Union address. At the same time, House leader, Nancy Pelosi has been in front of the cameras expressing her intention for transparency in the deliberations.
The Senate version for health care legislation has been established as the basis for reconciliation legislation. This is a bit of departure from a normal reconciliation process where both the House and Senate versions are fully vetted for reconciliation. By promoting the Senate version, the Democrats are indicating that the required votes in the Senate are more at risk than the House.
The Republicans have not been silent. Senator John McCain and his Republican counterparts have been speaking with the media nearly daily about the fact that their views and input have been excluded from the deliberations. On Fox news, there have been video clips of the President on the stump speaking about health care and his commitment to having the deliberations open and on C-SPAN.
In recent Washington Post and NBC polls, the shift in opinion against the legislation has increased to over 55% of those polled. This is a 10% swing against the proposed legislation in the last 90 days. Many Americans who believe that the intention is correct are against it now because of the manner in which the law has been crafted and the concern over provisions that are not fully understood in the nearly 2,000 page Senate document. What impact this will have on those on the fence congressmen and Senators remains to be seen.
The President is actively engaged in this process. He and his fellow Democrats may win passage of a landmark piece of legislation, but the back lash against the party in this year’s midterm elections could be substantial and risk their majority proof status in both houses. The next week is supposed to continue to be very cold in the Capitol, but there will be plenty of heat in those private White House meetings on health care.