By Alexander Bolton and Jeffrey Young - 01/20/10 05:10 PM EST
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said leaders would not make any attempt to pass a final healthcare reform bill through the Senate before state Sen. Scott Brown (R) is certified the winner of the special election.
Senate Democratic leaders met Wednesday morning to discuss the results of the special election in Massachusetts and have decided to wait before determining how to proceed on healthcare reform.
White House officials have pushed a proposal whereby the House would pass the Senate bill without changes, thereby avoiding the need for a second vote on healthcare reform in the upper chamber. The House could then amend the Senate bill through a second measure that would receive expedited procedural consideration in the Senate.
"At this point, we’ll be looking to see what the mood of the House is and what they want to do," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Steering Committee. "There’s no willingness to abandon ship on healthcare," she said.
"I would be very satisfied if the House passed what the Senate did and then we can work on those areas that need to be strengthened or fixed," said Stabenow. "Those of us who worked very hard on the Senate bill believe that this is a good bill. It’s not perfect; neither is the House bill. But the reality is, this would be a major step forward for lowering costs for families [and] small businesses [and] strengthening Medicare."
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the secretary of the Democratic Conference,
agreed that the ball is in the House's court. Asked whether it was up
to the lower chamber to act, Murray simply said, "I think so," adding,
"It's within their caucus. I'm not going to tell them."
Early indications, however, suggest that rank-and-file House Democrats have little interest in this approach.
Durbin said it would be a high hurdle to convince the House to pursue that plan.
“The first step in that option for the House to pass the Senate bill unchanged, that may be the toughest step,” said Durbin.
Durbin said there is a possibility that Democratic leaders may set aside the healthcare reform bill, adding “but there are many possibilities.”
“We’re still thinking about it,” Durbin said.
Reid was unavailable for comment after the meeting.