Dems’ enthusiasm on healthcare wanes

The healthcare thrill is gone.

A year ago, Democrats gushed with excitement about reforming the nation’s healthcare system. Now they talk about it like an unfinished chore.

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“I don’t think you’ll find much enthusiasm, but there are people who believe it has to be done, whether it’s with enthusiasm or not,” said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). “The debate has become so polarized and so divisive that people are saying, ‘We’ve got to revisit this, but it will be out of a sense of obligation.’ ”

Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE (D-Ark.), a centrist from a right-leaning state, issued a press statement in February 2009 hailing President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Poll: 15 percent of Democratic voters want to eliminate the filibuster Donald Trump has done more for African Americans than we think MORE’s address to Congress and saying he “shared the urgency” to address healthcare reform.

Fatigued from a year of rancor, however, Pryor and other Democrats on Tuesday said they would revisit the issue only reluctantly.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on this last year, and my sense is that most senators would like to move on to other subjects like jobs and the economy,” said Pryor. “But it depends on what form it comes back in.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat | White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus | Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus MORE (D-Del.) said, “If we stop now, it’ll be another 15 years before we get this close again.”

From senior party leaders to the rank and file, members of the majority party denied the issue of healthcare is dead and said they would renew their efforts after a series of pending bills to spur job growth. But they have acknowledged that the path to passage is much more complicated in the wake of

Republican Scott Brown’s special-election win in Massachusetts last month.

To cool temperatures, some Democrats suggested restarting the effort by focusing on ideas that appear to draw some bipartisan support, such as allowing health insurers to compete across state lines, removing antitrust exemptions for insurers and barring loopholes for pre-existing conditions

“We have to work out a bill; the question is what, and that’s the not-easy part,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (D-Calif.). “If it has to be incremental, so be it.”

Privately, Democratic leaders say they plan to decide their future strategy within the next few days. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' MORE (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday that the issue would be revived “in the near future.”

“We plan to do healthcare this year, and we plan to do it as quick as we can,” Reid said Tuesday.

A couple of Democrats, including Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding MORE (Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter MORE (Ore.), anticipated “a lot” of enthusiasm for revisiting the issue.

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“People recognize this as a serious issue for families and businesses across the country, and we’ve worked really hard on it,” Murray said. “This is something that hits families. It has a huge impact.”

Among the more skeptical Democrats: Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE (La.), who has said the legislation is “on life support.”

“I’m for trying to move forward. But it’s very unclear right now,” Landrieu said. ”It’s got a pulse, it’s got a possibility. But it’s going to be very difficult to get anything through reconciliation, even with trying to get 50 votes.”