The Corner

Humpty Dumpty Harry Reid

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and GOP conference chair, tells NRO that Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) is “all tied up in a knot.”

“All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men may not be able to put 60 together again,” says Alexander, in reference to the (barely) 60 votes Reid got last month to bring his bill to the floor. “With two weeks until Christmas, Democrats find themselves in the awkward position of trying to pass a 2,000-page bill — a bill which most of them admit they don’t know much about.”

Alexander cites the new report from the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as a potential death blow to Reid’s cause. The CMS, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, says that if Reid’s bill became law, America would spend $234 billion more on health care over the next decade.

“Add the CMS report to the Mayo Clinic’s devastating letter against the expansion of Medicare, as well as the opposition of the American Medical Association and hospitals to Reid’s Medicare idea, and it’s clear that the more people find out about this, the less they like it,” says Alexander. “I’m not ready to make a prediction (on whether it will fail), but things aren’t looking good for the majority leader.”

Looking back at the health-care debate this week, Alexander mused about how awkward Reid has been in managing the debate. “Senator Reid moved up the appropriations bill because he didn’t want a drug importation,” says Alexander. “He was afraid that the (Dorgan-McCain) importation proposal would pass and blow up his deal with Big Pharma, who has been the principle funder of Obamacare’s ad campaign. Then you had the public-option compromise and the furor over his proposal to expand Medicare. Then last night’s CMS report. Senator Reid doesn’t know where to turn. He surely doesn’t have 60 votes yet, because if he did, he’d move to close debate.”

“Friday, December 11 may turn out to be a seminal day for the health-care debate,” says Alexander. “The majority leader has been trying to create a sense of inevitability, but this debate is beginning to feel a lot like the 2007 immigration debate. The sense of inevitability is rapidly diminishing. Every new survey shows public support fading. CNN says that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to this bill.”

Why is there such growing public frustration with Reid’s bill? “Health care is not the only issue at work here,” says Alexander. “Health care has become a proxy for public restlessness and anger about bailouts, spending, and debt. All of these issues are tied up.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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