The anecdote illustrates the struggle Democrats have faced keeping their party unified behind their massive health care reform proposal. The struggle continues as House and Senate Democrats meet behind closed doors to merge their two bills.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday night that Democrats are having "serious problems" merging the bills, while Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said the health care bill was "hanging by a thread."
House Democrats are pushing for the Senate to adopt their stronger regulations, but it will be hard for the Senate to alter their version of the bill significantly without potentially losing the votes of moderate Democratic senators. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) maintains he is "not 100 percent certain" he will vote for whatever bill the merger process produces, in spite of his interest in passing some kind of reform legislation.
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To further complicate the process, a report from National Journal reveals the health insurance industry was quietly funding negative health care ads released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the summer while publicly supporting the reform effort.
Karen Ignagni, president of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, wrote in a letter to the Washington Post in late October that "health plans continue to strongly support reform." By that time, however, her trade group was already funding the Chamber's negative ads, the National Journal reports.
The White House jumped on the news: "It's no surprise that the insurance companies who profit from the broken status quo would oppose fixing the system," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog. "But this article should serve as an important reminder of the powerful forces standing in the way of change and of whose bidding opponents of reform are doing."
Meanwhile, Democrats have made missteps of their own, Reid acknowledged to the New York Times. He said it was a mistake for the White House to try to win the support of moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe. "As I look back it was a waste of time dealing with her," Reid reportedly said, "because she had no intention of ever working anything out."