Lieberman, Nelson, Durbin on Sunday shows

Whether or not healthcare reform legislation survives its first test vote in the Senate, the Sunday shows will have all the key guests to react to the outcome.

Other political hot topics, such as the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia and growing congressional opposition to Obama’s economic team, are likely to take a back seat to healthcare reform on this weekend’s talk shows. That’s because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this week scheduled his chamber’s first procedural vote on the bill for Saturday at 8 p.m.

Key senators will take to the airwaves on Sunday only hours after the vote’s outcome to discuss the future of the $849 billion proposal.

Three of the most highly anticipated guests will be Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Before Friday, Nelson would have likely been the most coveted guest on the Sunday circuit. For weeks he had threatened to vote against the motion to proceed due to his objection to the bill’s abortion language. The centrist Democrat believes that the provisions do not do enough to prevent federal dollars from paying for abortions under the health insurance exchange.

But Nelson on Friday said he would vote with his party to allow debate on the bill while stressing that his vote to proceed was not a vote for the bill, with which he still has concerns. Nelson also left the door open to supporting a Republican filibuster on the final cloture vote, making him one to watch when he appears on ABC’s “This Week.”

Like Nelson, Lieberman – who caucuses with the Democrats -- has said he would vote for the motion to proceed Saturday but has threatened to join a GOP filibuster. The centrist senator opposes the public option and has expressed concern with the bill’s cost. Lieberman will join a panel of guests on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Nelson’s announcement left two remaining holdouts on tomorrow’s procedural vote: Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Lincoln has not yet indicated when she will make up her mind on the vote but Landrieu on Friday announced she would declare her decision Saturday morning before the vote.

The man responsible for marshaling votes on the Democratic side of the aisle, Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), will appear on “Meet the Press” along with Lieberman. Expect David Gregory to question Durbin on Lincoln and Landrieu’s votes no matter the outcome.

Another member of the Senate leadership, Democratic Caucus vice chairman Chuck Schumer, is set to talk on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will join Durbin on “Meet the Press.” Two other Democrats will appear on the Sunday shows. Senate Finance Committee member Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) will  appear on “Fox News Sunday.” Though Specter switched parties in April, he has emerged as a strong supporter of the legislation.

A number of Republican senators will appear on the Sunday shows to provide their points of view. Senate Republicans almost unanimously oppose the bill though it is still possible centrist Republican senators such as Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Susan Collins (Maine) could be wooed by Democrats to vote for final cloture. It is expected, however, for all Republicans to vote against Saturday’s motion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will lead the Republican response; he will be interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will talk alongside Schumer on “Face the Nation.” Senate Republican Conference chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will speak on "Fox News Sunday."

Other rank-and-file Republicans are scheduled to speak on the Sunday shows. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a physician by training and a leading Republican voice on healthcare, will join Nelson on “This Week.” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is set to appear with Durbin, Feinstein and Lieberman on “Meet the Press.” Finally, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) willl join Alexander, Stabenow and Specter on "Fox News Sunday."

Two members of the House, Chief Deputy Whip Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), will appear on “This Week” to talk healthcare reform alongside Nelson and Coburn.