Is Health Care Reform Dead or Alive?

(AP)
There is no doubt Democrats have pushed aside their work on health care reform in favor of tackling job creation, but what is unclear is whether they will ever be able to pick it back up.

By some accounts, the pause in negotiations -- spurred by Republican Scott Brown's win in the Massachusetts Senate special election, which stole the Democrats' 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate majority -- offers a much-needed opportunity for Democrats to regroup.

"Many have concluded that the only hope for resuscitating the healthcare legislation is to push the issue off the front page and give lawmakers time to work out a new compromise and shift public perception of the bill," Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Levey reports that party leaders have "nearly settled on a strategy to salvage the massive legislation," leaning toward a plan for House Democrats to pass the Senate bill, as well as a "fix it" bill to add modifications to the Senate bill. The Senate could then pass the "fix it" bill with 51 votes via a process called reconciliation.

The Obama administration on Sunday morning talk shows gave an optimistic outlook for the legislative efforts, the Washington Post reports.

"The president is determined that we deal with the problems in front of us and health care is one of those problems," White House adviser David Axelrod said on NBC's Meet the Press. "The American people aren't saying let's walk away from health insurance reform."

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

Politico adds that President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "by all accounts... remain sincerely committed to pushing ahead." Still, "the parallels to 1994 — the last time health reform died — are unmistakable."

"There's no such thing as 'Let's take a pause in legislating so that we can gain momentum on it.' It's insulting," Lawrence O'Donnell, a former Democratic staff director during the Clinton health care debate, told Politico.

Regardless of what Democratic insiders say, the White House's newly-released budget proposal "underscores how the government is already adapting to the stalling of the health legislation in Congress," the Wall Street Journal reports. The budget proposal includes $25 billion in additional Medicaid funding that was previously expected to appear in the Democrats' health care bill. Cash-strapped states are particularly in need of more federal funding of Medicaid, with state enrollment up by an average of 5.4 percent in 2009, the highest rate in six years.

Some in the Democratic camp are still waiting for the president to send a clear signal of what he would like to see happen, specifically.

"The administration's arms-length approach is a large part of the problem," a senior Democratic strategist told Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic. "They have lost vital time and momentum. There is no excuse."

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