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Recent events have necessitated that the Obama White House shift its focus from the push for healthcare reform to the war in Afghanistan and the millions of jobless Americans. But at what cost does this change come? With the healthcare reform bill slowly moving through the Senate, placing additional considerations before Senators may delay a vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has stated that he wants a vote on his bill to come before the holiday recess. That deadline remains in question as the Senate work load continues to pile up:
For Democrats, the challenge is to balance the health bill with everything else.
Lawmakers hope to act this month to avert planned cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, scheduled to drop sharply next year. Senators also want to figure out what to do about the estate tax, which under current law is set to disappear next year and return in 2011 at a much higher level.
Action will also be needed soon to extend funding for basic government operations, which expires Dec. 18. Currently, only five of 12 spending bills needed to fund the government have been signed into law.
Democratic leaders realize that as the 2010 elections draw closer, the likelihood of passing a massive new government entitlement shrinks. Maybe that is why they have been desperately trying to ram through reform since last July. In an attempt to pressure their peers, they are now threatening to force deliberation on Christmas Day. When asked about such plans, Majority Leader Reid stated:
We're going to do our very utmost to do health care before the end of the year.
But, some members of the Democratic Caucus have already made clear their opposition to the reform being pushed by Harry Reid and his supporters. And, as more work is added to the Senate agenda and healthcare reform is pushed further down the list of priorities, Democratic leadership is going to have an increasingly difficult time convincing moderates that a $2.5 trillion reform bill is the solution to America's healthcare woes.