Oct 23, 2009

Key senators may rebuff Obama on health care

With Democrats in control of a hefty majority of the Senate as well as the House one would think Mr. Obama would be able to overhaul the nation's health care system this fall.

The numbers mask a more complicated reality: Obama and Democratic leaders have modest leverage over several pivotal Senate Democrats who are more concerned about their next election or feel they have little to lose by opposing their party's hierarchy.

Roland Burris of Illinois (upper photo) is still smarting from being forced to abandon next year's election. Another, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (lower photo) had to leave the Democratic Party to stay in office. Others are from states that Obama lost badly last year.

When lawmakers face a tough vote, their uppermost thought is "survival," said Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican who spent three terms in the Senate.

One example is Sen. Blanche Lincoln a Democrat from Arkansas who faces a potentially tough re-election race next year. Obama lost to Republican John McCain by 20 percentage points in Arkansas.

Senator Lincoln says she will base her health care vote on what is best for Arkansas - translation - she will base her vote on what’s best for her re-election chances.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where Obama lost by a similar margin told reporters, "I'm not for a government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plan (public option), and never will be."

Another centrist Democrat whose vote is uncertain is Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a political battleground state.

"I want to know what works for families and small businesses," said Bayh, adding that he might back public insurance options run by states, not the federal government.

More of the story here.