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Today in Health Care Reform

12:49 PM, Dec 7, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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The Senate Democratic leadership is scrambling for 60 votes as the battle over amendments to the Reid bill continues.

On Sunday, Obama visited Capitol Hill to encourage Democrats to pass his legislation. I've noticed that some media are calling Obama's trip to the Capitol "rare." But how "rare" is it for this president? Obama's already been to the hill several times to lobby for his agenda. Meetings with lawmakers on their turf is part of his presidential style.

A vote is expected soon on Ben Nelson's amendment to incorporate the Stupak language into the Reid bill. Conventional wisdom in Washington holds that the Nelson amendment will fail. We'll see, but if it does fail, that may cause trouble in a potential House-Senate conference. Assuming the bill gets to conference -- there's always the chance that, if Nelson's amendment flops, he may use that as a reason to oppose a cloture vote on health care reform.

Meanwhile, a gang of ten senators, five liberals and five centrists, are in negotiations to hammer out a possible compromise on the public option. There are various proposals, from a trigger to the "opt-out option" to a nonprofit public plan managed by the folks at the Office of Personnel Management. Yes, the implication of such a plan is that anyone on the public option effectively would be an employee of the government. Probably not the best message to send to a public historically skeptical of centralized power.

In other big government news, liberals aren't happy at the prospect of a "non-robust" public option. And it's hard to see how the interests of Charles Schumer and Sherrod Brown align with those of Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson.

The takeaway here seems to be that if Reid can't get 60 votes for some version of the public option, the bill may be in big trouble.