Senators on sidelines as House vote looms

Many Senate Democrats are choosing not to lobby House members in their state delegations on the healthcare bill.

While a handful of senators who were once House members have informally reached out to former colleagues, many others are keeping a distance from the intense whipping going on in the Senate.

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They note that neither the Obama administration nor House leaders have asked for the help from the Senate, which many House members don’t trust because of a backload of House-approved legislation that has stalled in the Senate.

Some senators think their involvement at a critical stage in the healthcare debate could be counterproductive.

“I’m happy to do it if asked, but the question is whether pressure from the Senate helps or not,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), whose House colleague John Adler (D-N.J.) is a probable no.

 Other senators said they have avoided lobbying any House members out of respect for the House and for senior members of their delegations.
Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in Dems search for winning playbook MORE (D-Mo.) pointed to 33-year Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), a likely “no” vote who faces a tough reelection challenge this fall.

 “He’s a senior member of our delegation, and it’s a little unseemly for a new kid on the block to try and tell him how to vote on anything,” said McCaskill, who was elected in 2006.

Other Senate Democrats said their hands are tied because their colleagues seem entrenched in their positions.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) noted that Indiana Rep. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDems search for winning playbook GOP anxious with Trump on trade Blue wave of 2018 stops in Indiana and Missouri MORE (D) objects to abortion language in the bill — “a matter of conscience that would be inappropriate to lobby him about.”

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota Nielsen says 'possible' Trump used vulgar language in meeting MORE (D-Minn.) said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) also seems to have made up his mind.

“He told me how he’s going to vote, and I figure that’s the end of it,” Klobuchar said.

Freshman Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (D-N.C.) got involved, but it didn’t appear to work.

She said she used a plane ride from North Carolina to Washington to try to allay freshman Rep. Larry Kissell’s (D-N.C.) concerns about the bill’s effect on Medicare. Hagan said Kissell said he still planned to vote no.

House leaders are preparing for a tight vote that could occur this weekend. They’ll be considering the Senate-approved bill as well as a package of changes to that legislation that would then go to the Senate.

Because so many House members dislike the Senate bill, the House may vote on a rule that deems the Senate bill as having been passed and that moves the package of changes forward. That would avoid a roll-call vote on the actual Senate bill.

The senators lobbying House members the most are former House lawmakers themselves.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal 'Fix' the Iran deal, but don't move the goalposts North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (D-Md.), who was elected to the Senate in 2006 after 20 years in the House, said he has talked to about a half-dozen House Democrats to assuage their concerns over reconciliation.

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“I’ve tried to give them the sense that we’re in this together to get the healthcare bill done and that there was a great deal of understanding on our side to use whatever procedures we could to help them with modifications,” said Cardin.

Cardin’s colleague, Maryland Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil, is among the 37 likely “no” votes by House Democrats, according to a whip count maintained by The Hill.

 Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Overnight Energy: California regulators vote to close nuclear plant | Watchdog expands Pruitt travel probe | Washington state seeks exemption from offshore drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Fight erupts over gun export rules | WH meets advocates on prison reform | Officials move to allow Medicaid work requirements | New IRS guidance on taxes MORE (D-Del.), has phoned some members of the House’s conservative Blue Dog Coalition that he knew well during his 10 years in the House. Carper said he told them that former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump’s first year in office was the year of the woman Can a president be impeached for non-criminal conduct? Dems search for winning playbook MORE said he has had to listen to Republicans distort his healthcare attempt for the past 15 years, and that if the current bill fails, there will be another 15 years of distortions about what Obama tried to accomplish. Carper’s bottom-line message: “Winners write the history books.”

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Commerce sends Trump long-awaited steel report GOP Rep. Jim Renacci announces Ohio Senate bid MORE (D-Ohio), who served 14 years in the House, said he has talked with about 20 House Democrats, “encouraging them and telling them we’re going to do it right over here.”

Ohio Democratic Reps. Steve Driehaus and Dennis Kucinich are also among the 37 likely Democratic “no” votes, though Kucinich has also come under pressure from President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration Trump’s first year in office was the year of the woman MORE to switch his vote. He scheduled a press conference for Wednesday to announce his position.

“They just need to trust that we’ll do it right, and I think enough of us talking to them will help them do that,” Brown said.

A fourth former House member, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) Former Sanders campaign manager: Don't expect email list to be shared with DNC Adult film star: Trump and Stormy Daniels invited me to 'hang out' MORE (I-Vt.), also said he has talked to “a few” colleagues in the House, as did Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Senate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Trump's 's---hole' remark sparks bipartisan backlash MORE Jr. (D-Pa.) at a St. Patrick’s Day parade over the weekend. Two of Casey’s delegation members — Democratic Reps. Chris Carney and Paul Kanjorski — are among the 37 likely “no” votes.