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 McCaskillFive things to know about Joe Lieberman Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets Mueller to ask Congress to step back Russia investigations: report 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 DonnellyJoe DonnellyUpdated fuel regulations would modernize options at gas pumps Mnuchin mum as Dems press for answers on tax reform, Dodd-Frank Overnight Defense: Senate passes funding bill | Trump to get Afghan war plan next week | Concerns grow over Army nominee MORE (D) objects to abortion language in the bill — “a matter of conscience that would be inappropriate to lobby him about.”

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden fuels 2020 speculation Week ahead: Tech awaits Trump budget Potential 2020 Dems look beyond Trump 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 HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 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 CardinBen CardinWorries mount about vacancies in Trump's State Department Pence marks Armed Forces Day with vow to rebuild military Trump's steps on Iran show cooperation with Congress is possible 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 CarperTom CarperDems seek damage assessment after Trump's meeting with Russians Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances regulatory reform bills Heitkamp breaks with Dems on regulations 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 ClintonBill ClintonMonica Lewinsky: Fox News's 'dream was my nightmare' Feehery: Trump’s first budget test Five things to watch for in the Trump budget 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 BrownOvernight Finance: Trump moves to begin NAFTA talks | Dems press Treasury chief on taxes, Dodd-Frank | Biz leaders want tax changes to be permanent Mnuchin mum as Dems press for answers on tax reform, Dodd-Frank Sherrod Brown looks to defy Trump trend in Ohio 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 ObamaVoting advocates notch win at Supreme Court Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Watchdog group sues for ex-lobbyist ethics waivers 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 SandersBernie SandersSenate votes to confirm US ambassador to China Overnight Finance: What to expect from Trump budget | Plan calls for 0M in Medicaid cuts | Senate confirms ambassador to China | Roadblocks ahead for infrastructure plan Want to identify as pro-life? Then support authentically pro-life policies MORE (I-Vt.), also said he has talked to “a few” colleagues in the House, as did Sen. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDem lawmakers voice shock, outrage on Comey memo Ryan tweet on classified info resurfaces after bombshell Trump report Grassley rips ‘Nixonian’ talk about Comey firing: ‘Suck it up and move on’ 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.