With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama’s top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.More and more Democrats are getting cold feet as they start perusing their poll numbers and the results of the Massachusetts election.
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House.
Mr. Reid said that he and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, were working to map out a way to complete a health care overhaul in coming months. “There are a number of options being discussed,” Mr. Reid said, emphasizing “procedural aspects” of the issue.
At the same time, two centrist Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year, Blanche L. Lincoln of Arkansas and Evan Bayh of Indiana, said that they would resist efforts to muscle through a health care bill using a parliamentary tactic called budget reconciliation, which seemed to be the simplest way to advance the measure.
The White House has said in recent days that it would support that approach.
Some Democrats said that they did not expect any action on health care legislation until late February at earliest, perhaps after Congress returns from a weeklong recess. But the Democrats stand to lose momentum, and every day closer to the November election that the issue remains unresolved may reduce the chances of passing a far-reaching bill.
Who would have thought that with a huge majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, they couldn't pass their party and president's signature issue. Their failure lies squarely with their own botched efforts to craft a bill that the majority of the American people could support and that didn't seem full of cave-ins to special interests and giveaways to reluctant Democrats. They can blame the American people for being too dumb to know what's good for them. Or they can blame their leadership for choosing to craft such a huge, omnibus bill without any sincere effort at bipartisanship or taking into account the public's concerns. They may talk bravely about recalibrating for another attempt later on, but it seems that we can truly say, "It's dead, Jim."