Unhealthy Dem division

Former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE — the Big Dog himself — called on Senate Democrats at the Capitol this week, imploring them to compromise on healthcare reform.“We’re winning,” he said, his optimism tempered with warnings about the cost of inaction, losing the House and Senate in 1994 and other bad memories. But Clinton’s declaration is wrong. He knows the Democrats aren’t winning — if they were, the White House wouldn’t have asked him to make the visit.

After uniting behind healthcare reform as a central tenet of their social policy agenda for decades, Democrats are now risking everything in the eleventh hour over their differences on abortion. Language authored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) banning federal funding for abortion, even in private insurance programs, passed in the House bill over the weekend but has since sparked a revolt among pro-choice Democrats now threatening passage of any final, merged House-Senate conference bill that contains the Stupak provision.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) plans to bring up a bill early next week but thus far has neither a score from the Congressional Budget Office nor the 60 votes required to proceed to the bill he wrote outside the committee process, which his caucus members have yet to read.

The list of obstacles begins with reticent Democrats leadership has been watching all year: Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuYou want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' MORE of Louisiana, Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Las Vegas highlights Islamist terrorism is not America's greatest domestic threat MORE of Missouri and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Centrists largely opposed to a public plan, they are now split over abortion, with McCaskill criticizing the House-passed restrictions and Nelson demanding they remain intact. Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), an Independent who caucuses with Democrats and — at regular intervals — drives them up a wall, is threatening to filibuster over the public option. He told The Boston Globe this week that he isn’t alone, estimating the number of reticent Democrats in the double digits, at “different levels of intensity.”

Lieberman is likely correct that the pool of potential reform-killers in the Democratic Conference could stretch well beyond the usual suspects. Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Senate confirms No. 2 spot at HHS, days after Price resigns Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax CEO faces outraged lawmakers | Dem presses voting machine makers on cyber defense | Yahoo says 3 billion accounts affected by 2013 breach MORE (Ore.), normally a reliable vote, is concerned the bills now under consideration don’t cut healthcare costs. And the potential for more bill-stopping concerns from the likes of Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? 5 takeaways from Senate Russian meddling presser Trump: 'America is truly a nation in mourning' MORE (Va.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate panel approves bill to speed up driverless cars Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump proclaims 'Cybersecurity Awareness Month' | Equifax missed chance to patch security flaw | Lawmakers await ex-CEO's testimony | SEC hack exposed personal data MORE (Fla.), Jim Webb (Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot Senators grill ex-Equifax CEO over stock sales MORE (Mont.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBernie Sanders flexes power on single-payer ObamaCare architect supports single-payer system Trump has yet to travel west as president MORE (Mont.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), 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 (N.C.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick Dems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Infrastructure spending bill sliding down agenda MORE (Del.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetAmeriCorps hurricane heroes deserve a reward — don’t tax it Joe Buck defends 'nonviolent protests' at NFL games Patriotism is no defense for Trump’s attacks on black athletes MORE (Colo.) is much greater than the potential for consensus at this point. Let’s not forget that Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has announced he will attempt — once again — to make history, by promising to oppose any bill that doesn’t contain a “robust” public option.

Even if Reid is afforded a Christmas miracle, passing a bill out of his chamber, the process for merging a House and Senate bill appears daunting at best.

Pro-choice Democrats have gathered enough signatures from Democrats prepared to vote against final passage of any bill containing the House-passed abortion language. And other liberal Democrats are threatening to oppose a watered-down public plan like the “trigger” proposed by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), which many view as the likely Senate fall-back, as well as the “opt-out” plan Reid has proposed.

Republicans didn’t need to heed the Catholic bishops who warned them not to obstruct passage of the House bill including new abortion limitations. Far better for the GOP to get out of the way so Democrats can obstruct healthcare reform themselves.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.